Monday, July 29, 2013

40 Days, 12 Hours, 15 minutes & 38, 37, 36...

Dear Friend,
Tonight at Mountain Stage, rock cellist, Ben Sollee played a touching song he wrote about his son, titled Slow Down. His performance was followed by the rockers, the Bottle Rockets, who played one of their new songs titled, Goes To Fast. I couldn't help to think they were singing directly to me.

The last few weeks I have felt closer to a Tasmanian devil than human. Whirling around, trying to fit in as much as possible during my waking hours. This particular time of year tends to do that to me. First, summer is my true love. I feel obligated to fit in an activity in every possible waking moment that I can't do during the cold winter months. From fishing to running to sitting outside by the pool. I am frantically trying to soak it all in as if summer will never return.

But, most importantly this time of year tends to go so fast because it is our last few weeks before Walk to End Alzheimer's. There is an overwhelming amount of activity happening at any given moment. From kick-offs to fundraisers. We are meeting with planning committees to finalize logistics and furiously trying to recruit teams and get the word out about the Walk. It is by far, my favorite time of year, it is exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time.

Saturday night I had the great joy of visiting our dear friends who just had a baby. He is now a little over 1 1/2 months old. It is remarkable how much he has grown just in that short of time. As I cradled him in my arms, staring down into his big sweet eyes, all I could think, stop, time, stop.

But, as much as I want to hold on to him as a baby, as much as I want summer to linger forever, and to have more time before we launch our first Walk in 5 weeks, the true joy of life is in the journey of time.

This time of year I often have to stop, and look around and breathe it in. Feel the slow rumble of momentum as the stampede of Walk to End Alzheimer's appears on the horizon. Walk to End Alzheimer's is the place that we put our joy and our pain, it is where we fight and remembrance, and all of the activities leading up to the Walk is the joy of the journey.


In 40 Days, 12 hours, and 15 minutes we will cut the registration ribbon on the first Walk to End Alzheimer's of 2013. Crowds of purple will rally, marching with one purpose. To End Alzheimer's. In all the madness that is Walk morning, and the weeks that lead up, take a moment to stop and breathe and soak in the powerful moment that Walk provides.


  • Last week's Walk to End Alzheimer's Team Week for the Martinsburg, Mid-Ohio Valley and Beckley Walk to End Alzheimer's were a smash! Throughout the week, teams recruited 109 new people to their Walk teams! We can't wait for the rest of our upcoming Team Weeks, especially Huntington & Elkin's next week! 
  • We are complete! Kelsey Clough begins today as our new Constituent Relations Coordinator. She is my replacement, and will be managing our marketing, communications and public policy work! She comes to us from the Higher Education Policy Commission, and we are thrilled to have her! 
  • Caregiver University comes to Martinsburg this week! Join us on Wednesday at the Blueridge Community and Technical College. We are still accepting registrations, click here to register online or give us a call at 800.272.3900!   
  • Registration is open and booming on our online dementia care class with WVU Continuing & Professional Education! Registration is open until August 5, for more information click here!
  • Walk to End Alzheimer's is nearly here! If you have a Walk fundraiser or team recruitment event that you would like to promote via our email or Facebook, please email us at Not our facebook fan? Find us at

Chef's Note: Just a reminder, the recipes featured each week aren't necessarily good for your brain, or good for anything other than your weekly reminder to do something for yourself. I use cooking to help relieve my stress when I can't really get away from the house, so I encourage you to find what works for you! But, you should try these chocolate chip cookies, they are yum-o! 

NASCAR driver Ryan Newman, one of two of my favorite race car drivers and Indiana native, was 10 laps away from achieving his childhood dream of winning the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I couldn't take the suspense, and I am pretty sure W couldn't take my suspense related anxiety for much longer. What to do, what to do...

Well, we had all of the fixings to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, so I went for it. This is one of my all time favorite recipes, because it is nearly fool proof. As a matter of fact, in my excitement in Ryan Newman crossing the finish line first, I lost count of how many cups of flour I added - and ended up leaving out 1/2 cup! But the cookies turned out pretty tasty anyways!

The genius behind this recipe is, you guessed it, Martha Stewart! You can find the complete recipe here.

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Ideally you want your butter to come to room temperature, and generally I do - but today I just wanted cookies!! Mix 1 cup of butter (two sticks) with 1 cup of brown sugar (the recipe calls for light brown, but dark brown works just as well!)

Add 1/2 cup of sugar. Mix until incorporated. (I promise I usually eat very healthy, but lately I have been on the sweets crave!)

At this point you want to stop the mixer, stick your finger taste the mixture. Simply because butter+sugar=AMAZING

Add 1 tsp of salt and 2 tsps. of vanilla extract.

Followed by two eggs, then blend!

I always wish I could be one of those expert bakers that mix the dry ingredients, then sift them, then add them to the wet ingredients. But, let's be honest - I am just looking for the fastest way for cookies to get in my belly!

Add 1 cup of flour at a time for a total of 2 1/2 cups of flour, after the first cup of flour add 1/2 tsp. of baking soda. (Once I accidentally added baking powder instead, and they still turned out great! That's how fool-proof this recipe is!!) It is important during this time to really focus on how many cups of flour you are adding. Try not to get distracted by your favorite NASCAR driver winning the race, and add all 2 1/2 cups to the batter.

Now is time for the good stuff, CHOCOLATE! The other great thing about chocolate chip cookies, is if you don't happen to have chocolate chips, add any kind of chocolate chips. My favorite version of this recipe has to be the time that I only had 2 Hershy bars and 2 individual packages of M&M's. The combination of the cut up chocolate pieces and the candy, was so good. I think I actually ate all of them. BUT today I am going with W's favorite. White Chocolate M&M's, I have only ever found them at Target. Sometimes I hand mix them in, sometimes I turn on the mixer and let it crush the candy. Either way, the cookies turn out great!

Dollop about 1 1/2 tbs of batter to make 1 cookie. Bake for 10-12 minutes, when the buzzer rings they will still look gooey. That is normal, I promise!

But, you do want to let them cool for a moment or two before diving in.

Oooooooo, yeaaaaaaaa. Newman, this cookie is for you!

Until next week!

Laurel K.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sometimes You Just Need to Stop and Pie

Dear Friends,
Last week I had the opportunity to meet with a few members of one of our support groups. After spending a few days at AAIC listening to statistical analysis of support groups, this was a welcome reintroduction back into the real thing. We had a few minutes to wait while the final person in our meeting arrived. In those few minutes of small talk I observed what many of the members of our support group already know, the moment you walk into any of our support groups, you are immediately enveloped into a loving family whose mission is to support you in your caregiving journey. The members of the support group gently checked in on each other, listening intently and nodding in affirmation - with the knowing look, silently saying, "I've been there too." Sometimes they offered a suggestion based on their experience, but for the most part, they provided just want the other was looking for, support.

Science says support groups are one of the greatest weapons in the fight against caregiver stress and caregiver burnout. Each month when we analyze our website statistics, we find that our support group listing page is the 2nd most visited page on our website. However, these website visits don't always translate into support group attendance. Maybe it is our semantics, maybe we should change the term support group to ally group or friend group? An anomaly I have studied since joining the Association many years ago. It is easy to understand the hesitation, a room full of strangers, an emotional disease affecting the person you love the most, making arrangements for your loved one while you attend the support group.

If our support group members could tell you one thing while you are looking at our support group listing online, they would say, please, just come once. You don't have to talk, you can just sit and listen, but just come. Together our support group members surround each other and lift each other up throughout their caregiving journey. That special bond that I saw in our short meeting, the passion our members had for their support group and the members made my heart swell. Listening to the members in our meeting talk about recruiting new people, and people who they have asked to come to the meeting who they know could greatly benefit from the support group's help is greater proof of the enormous benefit than any scientist could provide. You can find a support group near you by visiting If you don't see a support group near you, and would be interested in starting one, please contact us at

Please, just come once.

There is a lot happening this week!

  • Monday I spoke to the Select Committee on PEIA, Seniors and Long Term care, providing updates on the Make a Plan for Alzheimer's, our adult day health resolution and the needs of West Virginia caregivers. The committee asked very good questions and are ready to tackle the issue of adult day health in West Virginia. Our Legislature's support of the cause of Alzheimer's is critical. If you would like to help support us in the issue, please contact me at 
  • Charleston Walk to End Alzheimer's Kick-Off THIS Thursday! Our planning committee has been hard at work making preparations for our kick-off! We can't wait to see all of our participants and sponsors, our kick-off is kind of like the pre-family reunion before the Walk. The kick-off is from 5 - 7 pm at our office. Please join us for food, fun, friends and Walk to End Alzheimer's! You can RSVP at Share this event with your friends! 
  • Welcome new staff member! Carolyn Canini will start with us as the Program & Quality Coordinator. Her focus will be on overseeing our quality initiatives, support groups and outreach. She is so new, we don't have her email address set up yet! 
  • We are making final preparations for Caregiver University in Martinsburg! It will be held on Wednesday, July 31. For more information visit click here!
  • We are also hosting a series of listening session regarding a grant project focused on improving the identification of cognitive impairment in hospital settings to ensure individuals receive best care. If you've had an experience, good or bad, with your loved one with Alzheimer's disease in a hospital or acute care setting please join us at one of our listening sessions. The dates are: Beckley 7/29; Martinsburg 7/30; Charleston 8/20. To RSVP or for more information, email or call 800.272.3900. 
It is Sunday. It is storming. I am working. Need a distraction...

I never made pie, until my mom and dad bought me a food processor for Christmas this past year. Growing up my favorite part of the pie process is the crust, so I was never interested in the pre-made crust. We would stand under my mom patiently waiting for the extra pie dough to get cut off from around the pan. What is it about flour and butter together that makes us go wild!

I still don't make pie very often. I can never, ever, ever get the crust right. According to my latest issue of Garden & Gun, the key to crust success is practice. Well, who has time for that! Our friend Sarah has an amazing bakery, Sarah's Bakery, so when I need a delicious desert I just swing by her place, because pies happen to be her specialty!

But, it is Sunday. I am working. Need a distraction. Have blueberries.

For the crust, this pie calls for a double crust - so cut the ingredients in half if you don't want a top to your pie.

First, to prepare. Put two sticks of butter into the freezer, the colder you get the butter the better!
Then, fill a measuring cup with 1/3 cup of water and add a few ice cubes, you want the water cold too.

In your food processor or a bowl add: 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp of sugar, 1 tsp of salt. Whirl around until mixed together.

Grab the butter from the freezer, slice into tbs. slices and add into the processor. Pulse the processor until you get a fine meal, it is hard to describe the consistency, but you want all of the butter to magically disappear.

Next, slowly add the water. The amount of water will vary based on a lot of factors, but you want to add small amounts of water, followed by pulsing until the mixture turns from clumps into a giant ball of delicious pie dough!

Divide into two balls, wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Did I mention that this is not an instant gratification recipe?

Onto the blueberries! Rinse and remove any stems or bad blueberries.

Add 3/4 cup of sugar, 3 tbs. of flour & 1 tsp. of salt. Stir this delightful mixture together. Don't resist the urge to pick off a few sugar coated blueberries, go for it! Sooo yummy!

Blarg! This is my least favorite part. Good thing I went to a TRX class this week. I am rolling out my stress!

The best way to transfer to the pie plate is roll the dough around the rolling pin, then roll it out over pie plate.

Oh, extra crust dough how I love you! 

Now is time for the dump! Add 2 tbs of butter around the top of the mixture and squeeze some lemon juice over the top.

Ok, the lattice was overkill, but I am really trying to avoid doing my work. Wrap foil around the edges so they don't burn and put into a 400 degree oven. Bake for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes.

Did I mention this isn't an instant satisfaction recipe? Resist your urge (more likely the urge of those around you - back off W!) to dive right in! You want to let it cool on the counter for an hour, then in the fridge for another few. It is actually best the next day. Ice cream is a required side dish.

Ok, I've wasted enough time. Back to the grind!

Until next week!

Laurel K.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I am Paul Revere

Ahoy from Boston!

Nearly 4,800 researchers from 70 countries descended upon the historic city of Boston to share, learn and discuss all aspects of Alzheimer's research. From the tiniest molecules to public health to care and support, sessions are happening around us that are real time changing the world as we know it. Since my tenure with the Alzheimer's Association,we have seen the field of Alzheimer's research grow and change. It was only a few short years ago we couldn't actually see the disease in a live person's brain. Now, commercialization of brain imaging technology will radically change and expand our capacity to examine the enigma that is Alzheimer's. It is exciting to think about what we will see at next year's conference. However, my optimism is cautioned with the knowledge that Alzheimer's research depends on us, the funding is only perpetuated by our never-ending call for more and better funding.

The news coming out of AAIC is entirely too long to list here. Be sure to visit to find the latest news, or follow the hash tag #AAIC on twitter

Boston was the perfect place to host AAIC this year. It is such a pivotal year in all of the forces that effect Alzheimer's research, from the advances in science to the politics. similar to our cause, Boston balances history with innovation. Boston is also the nurturing home that birthed our independent spirit and the fight for our freedom. And this week, Boston is once again hosting a fight for freedom, freedom from Alzheimer's disease. 

The Lexington Minutemen opened the conference (which made our British colleagues a bit nervous), but I can't think of a more appropriate opener. Often we feel like the minutemen, a small militia, up against the well organized and aggressive Alzheimer's disease. Our rag-tag team of staff and volunteers rally passionately around one of the most important causes of our time, on a shoestring budget, no matching uniforms and limited company-issued ammunition. (Purely a metaphor, I'm not issuing guns!) 

But not this week. On my run around the city on Saturday morning, I rounded a corner and arrived at the top of the famous Beacon Hill, and nearly fell down. There at the top of the hill, swaying from the Massachusetts state house was a giant, purple Welcome AAIC banner! Throughout the city, streetlight banners welcomed our group. And on my walk home from dinner on Saturday night I could see the purple glow of the video board in front of the Boston Convention Center, brightly urging passers by to join Walk. At times this weekend I have been so filled with purple pride, I've had to wipe away tears. But they are tears of joy and excitement!

We are an army.

Dr. Maria Carillo, vice president of Medical & Scientific Affairs for the Alzheimer's Association, said it best, "The Alzheimer's Association is the international steward of Alzheimer's research." The responsibility for advancing the research of Alzheimer's and related dementias is up to us. You and me. 

My long jaunt across Boston on Saturday morning brought me also to Paul Revere's home. There is a remarkable bronze statue depicting the "Midnight Ride." This kind of historical, larger than life monument makes you truly examine your mark on this planet. And it dawned on me.

WE are the Paul Revere of our time. Marching through our streets with our purple banners waving, sounding the alarm, "Alzheimer's is coming! Alzheimer's is coming!" We are the rallying cry, calling on our friends and neighbors to suite up and join the cause. There are some whose weapons against this disease are electron microscopes, analyzing genetic sequences, and conducting clinical trials.

But our weapon is just as important. Our VOICE. If not us, then who? We have to sound the alarm. 


Freedom fighters, I am calling on your strength and heart. Join the fight for our independence from the great oppressor that is Alzheimer's. Advocate. Walk. Donate. Educate. We have a place for you in our army.

Join us. End Alzheimer's.


  • In conjunction with the AAIC, we released in partnership with the CDC The Healthy Brain Initiative: The Public Health Road Map for State and National Parterships, 2013-2018. Read more here
  • Monday night we hosted our first Walk to End Alzheimer's kick-off for this year in Beckley! A great time had by all, and we look forward to our next Walk Kick-Off in Charleston on July 25. Find more info here!
  • Our next Caregiver University will be held in Martinsburg on July 31! REGISTER HERE! 
  • Next Monday, I have been invited to speak at the Select committee on PEIA, Seniors & Long Term Care the WV legislature. If you had the opportunity to share with them your experience with Alzheimer's, what would you say? Email me your thoughts at
  •  Additional Angel's Perch showings have been booked for Morgantown & Bridgeport! Check out more info by visiting
One Skillet Wonder

The past few days in Boston have been jam packed with Association business and science, so I haven't had much time to go site seeing. But, hey a girl's gotta eat, right? Eating is one of my selfish luxuries. When I know I am going to be traveling, I save my pennies so I can splurge on really wonderful eats. At this point, I am no longer eating out of sustenance, but pure gluttony. Boston has amazingly rich food, sea food, Italian food, Irish food, fancy celebrity chef food. I have died and gone to food heaven.

I knew this food onslaught was coming, so when I planned to have dinner with my mom & sister the night before I left - I demanded home cooking. 

It is not lost on me how fortunate I am to have my mom and dad live down the street. Meals with my family are my all time favorite, no matter what we are cooking. And Thursday night was no exception. We had all been running a million different directions. Both my parents and my sister were out west for the past few weeks, so my family-time tank was on empty. 

My mom and I were feeling relatively apathetic about dinner. I was in the midst of a giant laundry and packing project, so my brain was mush. "What do you want for dinner?" "I don't know, what do you want for dinner?" This could really go on all night. We started plotting out our dinner, and the final product turned out to be just as delicious as if we had planned it for weeks. 

Chicken thighs are truly fool-proof, not the healthiest cut of the chicken, but by far the tastiest. No matter how poorly you cook, it is really hard to suck all of the juice and flavor out of them. We were cooking with thighs with out the skin, takes away some of the fat....

I am not sure at what point we decided to throw it all in one pot, but it was yum-o! 

Pre-heat the oven to 450. In a skillet, or on a baking sheet, drizzle a few tbs. of oil. Place the chicken in the pan. Surround the chicken with whatever vegetable you happen to have handy. We had mushrooms, potatoes, and a sweet Vidalia onion. 

Grab whatever fresh herbs you happen to have laying around. My mom has a giant oregano plant, that you can smell from a few feet away. Roughly tear up the herbs and add on top of the chicken and veggies. 

Pour a little more oil on top, add salt and pepper to taste. 

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is done, and viola! We mixed some fresh cherry tomatoes with pepper and basil, and cut up a watermelon. It was delish! We ate it all!! 

Sorry Ollie, none for you this time. 

Keep up the good fight. Until next week! 

Laurel K.

Monday, July 8, 2013

KISS, a recipe for love

Dear Friends,
I nearly had my post for today completed when I was notified of an incident in Nicholas Co. involving a man suspected to have Alzheimer's disease and a shooting. All involved are in our thoughts and prayers, and we hope for a speedy recovery for the deputies who were injured. While I don't want to speculate on the details of the case or the situation that led up to this incident, I would be remissed not to take this opportunity to talk about safety and Alzheimer's. As caregivers we walk a tightrope of vigilance, balancing safety risk and our loved one's independence. Those with Alzheimer's disease or dementia reading this would say they are trying to maintain their independence while learning how to navigate a new reality. What is real and shared in these two experiences is emotion. My original post was about keeping it simple when it comes to caregiving, and I believe that message translates well here. We first have to validate and understand the emotions we and our loved ones are feeling: happy, sad, anxiety, fear. These emotions are real, even if the situation triggering the emotion is not. I could spend about six months of this blog just talking about the various aspects of safety and Alzheimer's. And will come back to this subject frequently. But, if there is one thing you get out of my message today, it is we are here to help, 24/7. No matter where you are in the disease process, it is critical to be evaluating your caregiving situation for safety risks, and we can help you do just that. We also know that making certain safety transitions, like telling a loved one he/she can no longer drive or removing firearms from the house can be very difficult. We can help you navigate these difficult transitions. Helping you to find the solution that works best for you and your family. So please, reach out for help. You can reach us at 800.272.3900, or visit our safety center at Our loved ones need our vigilance and knowledge, and you don't have to navigate this road alone.

AlzNews This Week

  • Welcome new staff members! We would like to welcome Renee Morris our new administrative assistant in our Mid Ohio Valley office, you can reach her at And welcome to our new regional coordinator for our Northern Regional office, Stephanie Ballard Conrad, you can reach her at We are so thrilled to have you on our team!
  • Last week my friend Emily Bennington joined our all staff meeting for a fantastic workshop on mindfulness. If you have not read Emily's books, do it now! While the focus of her work is career success, her message of building your daily choices based on virtues that are most important to you, and how to navigate stressful situations while maintaining the core of who you are is applicable to all! We all learned how to overcome the bodies natural tendancy to freak out in times of stress, and instead practice the four steps of mindfulness to resolve the situation. The concept of mindful leadership, and practicing our virtues in order to make decisions as our best selves will be a theme you see here on the Dish frequently. Check Emily out at
  • The Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) is next week in Boston! I want to give you the heads up that you will be seeing a lot of research news coming out of AAIC. AAIC is the largest conference dedicated to Alzheimer's and dementia research. Stay tuned to our Facebook page to stay on top of the latest news and information from AAIC.
  • Walk to End Alzheimer's is kicking into high gear! If you haven't registered your team, click here! We can't wait to see this fall!
KISS a recipe for love
Last Monday was not only my first day as executive director, it was my fiance's birthday! No pressure, at all. I love a production. As a matter of fact, I am notoriously known for my productions. I am why they had to put a final "s" on the saying, "Keep it Simple, Stupid." 

So, you can imagine how my heart sank when I asked W what he wanted to do for his birthday, and his immediate reply was, "meatloaf." Maybe I was asking at a particularly stressful time, so a few days later I asked again, to only get the same reply. Well, don't you want to do a dinner out, I can make meatloaf anytime? No, really I just want to be at home. Oh, I bet it is because it is my first day on the job, and he doesn't want to stress me out. So I will plan a big night out for us and our friends. No, he said, I really just want to have meatloaf and hang out at home. No big production? No to-do? Well I guess if that is what you want... 

As we sat down to our plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans, I looked over at W, we had been laughing throughout the night, completely relaxed. I could visibly see the stress from his day had melted away. And it dawned on me, maybe the greatest birthday gift I could give him was to curate this safe, relaxing space; a place to shut out the noise, and just be. His birthday was a great lesson, sometimes all we need is a little K.I.S.S. 

I am relatively certain, W asked me to marry him in order to lock down a lifetime of my meatloaf. I am particularly proud of this recipe. Despite my gluttonous beginning to this blog with my carb-laden pancakes, I am very health conscious. And so is my meatloaf, so I may be sacrificing my impending marriage by revealing the healthy tricks hidden in my loaf. So, here it goes : 

Pop two slices of bread into a toaster. 

Combine in a food processor: half onion (more if you like a lot of onion), 6-8 cloves of garlic, 1 cup or so of carrots, toasted bread, 1 cup or so of spinach (lucky for W, I ran out of spinach tonight!) and any other veggie you would like to add!

Blend it all together, so it somewhat looks like baby food. (appetizing I know!)

Dump into a big bowl along with 1 lb of your choice of ground meat and an egg. If you are using beef, use lean ground beef, but ground turkey or chicken is just as tasty! And, actually if you want to leave the meat out completely it is still delish! Now for the flavor (these are really approximate measurements, so please feel free to adjust to your own taste): 1 tbs. onion powder, 1 tbs. garlic powder, 1 1/2 tbs of black pepper, 1/4 c of ketchup, 1 tbs of Dale's, 8 or so drops of Worcestershire. If you add salt, only add a small amount. There is plenty of salt in the Dale's and Worcestershire.

WAIT! Oh, crap - I forgot the mushrooms!! 

AND for the secret ingredient...

The Kirksey family has been Humphrey's marketing & sales force since the beginning of time. To my knowledge, this sauce can only be purchased at the EW James, in Huntingdon, TN. However, I have a lifetime supply in my pantry - so if you would like to try, just let me know! It is amazing, W puts it on everything (even fish and vegetables!). It is pretty spicy, so add to taste. I prefer about 1 tbs. 
Take your rings off, and roll up those sleeves. The only way to really get in there and mix it all up is with your fingers! 

If you have a meatloaf pan, which I do not, you can use a meatloaf pan. I prefer just to form it into a loaf. Bake at 350 for about 1 hr. After an hour, pull it out and douse it with ketchup, then pop it back in the oven for another 15 minutes or until the loaf is firm. Chef note: this recipe makes a lot of meatloaf. When it isn't birthday dinner, instead of making a loaf, I take the mixture and make giant meatballs, or mini loafs. They freeze perfectly for those nights that you don't have time to cook.

Mmmmm, happy belly, happy birthday, happy heart...

Until next week! 

Laurel K.    

Monday, July 1, 2013

Welcome home, we have pancakes waiting

Welcome to Director's Dish! (More about the Dish in a few)

As a child I secretly always wanted one job, to be head cheerleader. To rally the troops, support the pyramids and back handsprings, to lead the cheering section for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, to be in charge of picking out uniforms and coordinating bows. More than 20 years later, my life has come full circle, and I am starting my dream job as head cheerleader.

No, I still can not do a back handspring, nor should I ever try. But my inner wealth of optimism, energy, enthusiasm and love of the team has landed me right where I am supposed to be, Executive Director of the Alzheimer's Association, West Virginia Chapter. Many years ago, these qualities made me an ideal candidate to rally our Walk committees, cheering on our great volunteers as we reached event success. Many of you remember those years! When I took that job, I did not know I would fall in love with this place, the people and our work. But, I quickly discovered that the Alzheimer's Association was and would remain my home.

As I take on this new role, I move forward under the lens of head cheerleader. We have a truly remarkable team. Our staff does amazing things with great enthusiasm on a zero budget. We are supported by an unbelievable community of dedicated and passionate volunteers who make our work possible. As I sit here today I feel truly blessed that it is my job to rally, cheer and inspire these amazing people and their important work. We have so much to do, our work is hard, and often sad. But, together we can achieve great things.

I know my rose-colored optimism can't solve every challenge we will face. I know there will be tough times, and often even harder decisions. I know that as of today, the buck stops here. But, what makes these hard times navigable is our love. The Alzheimer's Association was founded on a community of love. While we don't always see eye-to-eye, we love each other, we love our work and we love the people we serve. We survive as caregivers because of love.

I am going to need you. I hope you will not only join our cheering section, but join our team. Be an advocate, join a Walk to End Alzheimer's, join one of our planning committees, host a community workshop, or just simply drop off our newsletters at your church or library. The end of Alzheimer's starts with me, and the end of Alzheimer's starts with you. Together we can change the future.

So, I thank you in advance of your great support. Today is just the first day of an amazing adventure that is going to change the world, so I hope you will come with me.

What is the Dish?
The Director's Dish is a weekly blog to keep you posted on the latest news from the Alzheimer's Association, West Virginia Chapter. From upcoming events, to the latest in research to chapter news, the Dish will offer the insider scoop along with a recipe reminder to make sure you do something for yourself this week. I hope you will use the link to the left to sign up to receive our weekly emails!

The real focus of this blog is all about taking care of yourself. That message is on repeat at our office, we tell our caregivers on a daily basis to make time for yourself, just like the stewardesses on an airplane tell you to put your oxygen mask on first. I also preach this same message to our staff, we are caregivers in our own right. But, it is much easier to say this than put it in practice. You can't always get away to have a moment for yourself. Over the years we have adjusted the message, focusing on Jolene Brackey's philosophy of creating moments of joy within the span of a day. Building in time everyday, whether you are folding laundry or taking a walk to get the mail, a moment to take a deep breath and refresh. My true stress relief moments come in the river with my fishing pole, gardening or heading out for a run. But, with hectic schedules the times I can make it down to the river get fewer and fewer. But staying true to our own advice, I have found a way to cope with my stress. And that outlet is what this blog is all about.

One of the hallmarks of my family is our love of food. We moved around growing up, and our parents made sure we indulged in culinary adventures along the way. From TX brisket, LA gumbo, Friday night catfish at my grandparents small TN town. My mother is a fantastic cook, she expertly incorporates regional flavors and ingredients, creating our eclectic palate. Mealtime is sacred to us, an opportunity to reconnect, reconvene and share our love for each other. My mother is also very health conscious cook, she deserves an award as possibly the only mother whose children demanded more wheat germ, (aka crunchies!). My parents taught us to love the creativity of cooking, so much so that my brother grew up to be chef.

I am not a chef. I don't even cook every night. But, I love the creativity of cooking. I love being able to produce a product that nourishes not only me but the people I love. When my better half and I cook together, the worries of the day melt away, we find ourselves laughing and cutting up, completely stress free.

I know that not everyone enjoys cooking as much as I do. And, on the reverse a number of you will see my recipes as entirely too simple (again, I am clearly not a chef!). But, what I hope is that each new recipe brings a reminder to do something for yourself. Something that you love, that makes you laugh out loud, use your brain in a different way or just a moment to breathe deeply.

Well, get on with the recipe! 
I have spent the last 6 months trying to decide what my first recipe would be on my very first day of the job. What recipe best describes who I am, and who I want to be as a leader of the Alzheimer's Association? SO much PRESSURE!

But, if there is one food, that would best describe me, it would be the pancake. Easy-going, but can be dressed up, simple and comforting. Pancakes are my go-to comfort food, including in times that I don't actually need any comforting. Pancakes represent total R&R for me, a Saturday morning with plenty of time to read the paper have a few cups of coffee and watch my favorite Food Network shows. I have a deep love of pancakes that started as a child, and I never let go. I can eat my body weight in pancakes, yes it is embarrassing, and kind of gross to watch, my friends can tell you the horrors. My mother makes the best pancakes, and I have never been able to recreate her perfect recipe, but I try every weekend! So here it is:

Saturday Morning Pancakes:
Heat up a griddle or skillet to medium-high heat. While you gather the rest of your ingredients, melt 3 tbs. of butter in the microwave, then let cool on the counter while you build the rest of the batter.

 In a large bowl mix together 2 cups of flour, 3 tbs. of baking powder and 1/4 tsp of salt.

When it comes to milk, you have a number of options. First, you can use regular milk or if you are feeling particularly healthy go for coconut milk or almond milk (just as delicious) Then you have to decide how fluffy you want your pancakes. If you like them thick, add 1 3/4 cup of milk, a little flatter pancake pour in 2 cups.

Stir in one egg and 1 tbs of sugar. Then it is time to add the secret ingredient to the deliciousness of my pancakes, 1 tsp. of vanilla extract. (don't tell anyone!) Finally, whisk in the butter, in my house this is a two person job, one to pour one to stir.

Now, you are ready for the griddle! Pour out the batter, Add in a ton of blueberries, frozen ones work during the winter! (Authors note: yes, that is a mini-pancake between my two big pancakes, you really work up an appetite when you are making pancakes!)Flip when the pancake starts to bubble. Even though your pancakes are cooked you need the final ingredient. Fry an egg to your preferred consistency, (over medium for me) and put it right on top of your double stack! This addition is courtesy of my dad, I know it sounds like an odd combination, but once you try you will never go back!

Oooo so delicious!

Can't stop eating...

Until next week!

Laurel K.