Thursday, May 8, 2014

Gluten hypocrisy

I feel it coming.
The same way I can smell the rain before the storm and sense when someone is sneaking chocolate chips from the pantry after bedtime, I can see this coming.
There's this growing disgust and impatience with all things gluten-free.
Rather, with the people who claim to be "on a gluten-free diet".

Let's clear some things up here, mmmkay?

First of all...I've been gluten-free since before it was cool. (where's THAT t-shirt?!) It was circa 2005 when I began struggling pretty seriously with some depression. I was deeeeep into my funk of 40,000 years when my mom (probably tired of getting sobbing phone calls from 8 hours away) insisted that I come see her doctor. Her doctor did his full exam, some scans and we talked a lot, then he handed me a copy of "The Specific Carbohydrate Diet" and said "read this. This is your new life."

They say there are 7 stages of grief.

Within the first 2 weeks I had spent most of my days waffling around between the 6 less-productive stages while bemoaning the lack of anything yummy in my (stupid, horrible, torturous) diet. Somewhere around the end of week 2, I hit my stride and decided to suck it up and be a big kid and just do the thing for the (whole stupid) 6 months. I immediately dropped 20lbs, felt better, had more energy, and realized how sick I had been for who knows how long.

After 6-8 months on the super restrictive portion of the SCDiet, I began slooooowly reintroducing some foods into my diet. It was immediately/violently/horrifically obvious that gluten was NOT my friend. Think sudden onset of food poisoning while having the flu with a side of severe hangover and you've pretty much got it. Therefore, no gluten.

What is gluten, you ask? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and triticale. It gives breads their stretchiness and allows for sweet little air pockets to form when the yeast eats the sugars in your breads and makes them rise and get all puffy and lovely. It hides in plain sight in mysterious ingredients like "modified food starch" and "malt flavoring". It is present in all forms of wheat - white bread, whole wheat bread, honey whatever brown colored bread, and sadly, biscuits with chocolate gravy. *sob*

What happened within the past two years is that several books were written which prescribed a gluten-free diet for any number of issues from IBS and IBD to ADHD and RBGH. (I made that last one up. Well, not's a thing. That's the growth hormone they give cows to make them produce more milk. But gluten may make those cows more gross... I don't know.) Popular celebrities touted the GF diet for helping them lose weight or getting rid of ____ annoying issue they were having. I know that for ME... going off gluten DID solve some big health problems, but those problems were a symptom of my gluten intolerance. I didn't do this to lose weight. It IS possible to go gluten-free and gain a butt-load of weight. (see what I did there?)

However, suddenly in the past few weeks there's been this rising discontent with those who have decided to "go gluten-free". I feel ya. There's a BUNCH of uneducated sheeple out there who have jumped all onto this GF train without knowing even what gluten IS and what it is NOT.
There are diners in restaurants all over the country (world?) who are ordering the gluten-free pasta with a mouth full of rosemary focaccia. They brag about being gluten-free "95% of the time... except sometimes I cheat a little!" Therein lies the problem. I can't just decide to "cheat a little". True gluten-intolerance or celiac disease is ONLY controlled through strict adherence to an absolutely 100% gluten-free diet. This means NO, if you have "a gluten allergy" you absolutely can NOT have just the tiniest piece of the "world's best triple cocoa chocolate chip mega ultra fabulousness cake" someone brought in to work. Not even a LITTLE! AND YOU WOULDN'T WANT TO! You'd know that the "tiny taste" leads to near-death on the toilet.

This gluten hypocrisy is the problem.

Here's what we (speaking for the majority of the truly intolerant/allergic GF community here) need for you part-time GF dieters to do:

Say "I try to limit the amount of gluten that I consume." 

See what just happened there? You've maintained your cool status by being on the latest trend, while admitting that you aren't going to be sick in bed for any number of days or spend your evening hugging the toilet if someone slips you the wrong bottle of soy sauce for your California roll.

Because when you go out to eat and you blab on and on about your gluten-free dietary needs, and how you need a special menu and how you want to be sure the chef understands that your meal needs to be totally gluten-free... but then you nibble on the bread or grab a crouton off your neighbor's salad... you are unintentionally training the servers, kitchen staff, management and other diners near by to discredit TRUE gluten intolerance as a "thing". (See previous blog I wrote about THIS tool who calls himself a chef, yet bragged on facebook about purposely serving wheat-based pasta to patrons requesting GF.)

Why am I back on my blog after a 4 month absence to talk about gluten?
Because I'm tired of feeling like a bandwaggon hopper for whispering "can you be sure this is gluten-free? No like REALLY. I have an actual allergy, not a skinny jeans problem."  
 I got sick today due to (probable) cross-contamination. That's when I order something safe (from the allergen menu on the nutritional information page from the company's own website) and somehow it comes into contact with something glutenny in the kitchen, gets sprinkled with the wrong seasoning, or SOMEthing... and I wind up wishing I had an in-home stomach pump machine. As I lay here in bed sweating with a horribly sick stomach, I read blog posts like this one and I really wish I could talk to this server in person. I shouldn't have to prove my level of gluten sensitivity in order to be taken seriously by the restaurant staff.

I am a mom of 12. My husband works in the food and beverage industry (read: gone alllllll the time). I guess you could say I don't get out much, and so when I do... I feel like I should be allowed the decency of your respect for my dietary restrictions. Does it kill you to leave off the croutons? Am I wasting your precious time if I ask what is in the marinade or if the fish is dredged in flour? You see, angry server/blogger, WE - the patrons of the restaurants - we make your job possible. No customers = no need for servers. I don't correct you when you tell me that "yes, it's wild salmon. It's wild Atlantic salmon.", because sweetpea... there isn't such a thing. All Atlantic salmon is farmed. So, please remember that even though a lot of patrons are simply testing the waters of the gluten-free abyss, there are others of us who are well-versed and know our way around a menu, we just need a little cooperation on your part.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

If you're a friend of mine on Facebook... I didn't block you. I didn't get my panties all in a wad because you posted something political/controversial and push that little "delete" button.

I took some time off of Facebook.
It's not about you.
It was TOTALLY about me.

I needed to do some soul-searching.

I was in a giant funk. Like really big. Like if you took the grouchiness over driving 26 miles to the nearest Kroger with a Starbucks to do your grocery shopping just so you could have your iced coffee made by someone other than your own self only to discover the aforementioned Starbucks was closed for a maintenance check up and COMBINED that with having ANOTHER dead chicken because, clearly, your number one thing on your nightly reminder list (above "did you brush your teeth?" and "did you go to the bathroom" and "you better not be wearing your pajamas over your dirty clothes") is "did you remember to close the chicken coop?" * Yeah. I was in a funk.
 *world's longest barely-coherent sentence. I'm not fixing it. See what a rebel I've become on my Facebook break??

So what drove me over the edge?
Well, I feel like I'm a pretty "real" person.
I suddenly felt like a "real" person drowning in a sea of over-achieving, party-planning, fun-having, happy-go-lucky, sunshine-and-roses, pooping-out-sprinkle-dipped-rainbow-colored-unicorns, life-is-grand, Mother-of-the year types.

Several of you out there have got this rose-colored-glasses thing DOWN!
I mean, (in an effort to not offend my Facebook friends, names have been left off to protect the perpetually sunshiney) here is a sampling of what I was reading:
(Artistic liberty taken, sarcastic flair added...)
"OHMYGOSH! I could just explode I'm just so in LOOOOOVE with my kid's morning breath! I mean, I'm just so BLESSED! He literally smells like a spring meadow covered in dew! #fabulouslife"

"My kids are such athletic geniuses!! All they do is WIN WIN WIN! #theygetitfromme #mygeneticpoolisbubblingwithlivingwater "

"I just love homeschooling! Every day is such a fabulous encounter with knowledge and learning and fabulousness! I just LOVE glitter all over the house! Playdoh is FABULOUS! Look at these paper mache'  busts we made of the founding fathers today in History of every single minute detail of the American Revolution class! Aren't they FABULOUS!? Oh my gosh! This one looks EXACTLY like John Adams! #homeschoolROCKS #INEVERwanttosendmykidstoboardingschool #yousuck #Iwin "

"I'm just so excited for our gigantic, super expensive, you-and-your-giant-family-will-never-afford-this trip to DisneyVille with our 2 perfect, spoiled children! We only get to go once a quarter, so this is SUCH a treat!! I've hand-sewn these matching pima cotton jumpers in matching micro-Mickey-head swiss dot fabric that I purchased from a fair-trade, free-range, organic leprosy colony in Mozambique! Aren't they PRECIOUS! #notonlyarewegoingtoDisneybutIdoitbetterthanyouevercould"

I think you catch my drift.

People, I was in a funk of comparison. 
"She's a better mom than me. She's NEVER annoyed at her kids. They will arise and call her blessed WAY before she's on her death bed for SURE."

"She puts her kids in SO many activities! They're going to be so well-rounded. I can barely make sure my kids are wearing clean-ish clothes every day, much less make it to all those practices, games and coaching sessions! I must be a horrible time-manager."

"She is like the president and CEO of homeschooling. If there was a Nobel prize for this, they'd definitely win. I would not get an invite to be a seat-filler at the Homeschooling Nobel Prize awards show. I'm just glad when we get through the day without someone crying because I told them they reversed their b and d again! What's with the homemade crafty stuff?! Don't these women sleep? Where do they come up with these ideas?? My kids should begin focusing on greeting people with a smile and saying 'would you like to super size that?' because that's about where we are headed if this is the standard."

"My poor kids. They have so much less than their peers. We've never taken a family vacation that wasn't to visit relatives and we will likely NEVER get to Disney. The tickets alone are ridiculous, not to mention the FOOD these people put away! Are they storing it in their hollow leg in anticipation of the Zombie Apocalypse?? Who eats 5 chicken legs at dinner?  I don't know if they'd have agreed to large-family-life if they'd known what all they'd miss out on."

So, in a fit of "I'm tired of feeling like a failure AND tired of thinking everyone has their crap together other than me" rage, I deleted the FB app from my phone, then logged in from my computer and deleted my account. I didn't make any big to-do about it, just Poof. Gone. I went radio-silent. I have a separate account for my business (anyone who tried to add me there, I just don't use that page for anything which is why I haven't looked at my friend requests.)

And here's what I learned.
Facebook isn't about being REAL.
It's about FACE value. It's about writing the fairytale BOOK about your life. The parts of the book you WANT people to see. It's not about being REAL in any way, shape or form. AND I'm able to get through the day without knowing what you put in your green smoothie or how much you looooove your new cockapootreiver, LoveBug.

And so, I was talking with a friend a week or so ago and explaining my epiphany when she said
"YOU are that person to me. YOU are the one I can't measure up to. YOU are the one I feel like I want to BE when I grow up."
Uhmmmm... what?
Suddenly it became very weird for me. The very thing I was avoiding, I had become.
Was I giving people a false-view of my life? Was I portraying that everything here at Drama Llama Ranch is sunshine and sprinkles? What on earth...??

So... after giving it some thought, I realized that Facebook is basically hallway talk. It's passing by someone in the hall after church. You're focused on getting your kids out of their classes and getting everyone loaded into the van and hopefully not forgetting anyone and figuring out what you can feed everyone for lunch because FOR THE LOVE it's been 3 whole hours since they've eaten anything and they might DIE... and you say "Hey! Long time no see! How is everyone?" and she replies "GREAT!! The kids and I are loving homeschooling, my husband is able to be home 6 days a week now and we just bought a kiwi berry farm out on 500 acres just outside of town with a barn so we can get a dairy cow! How are YOU??"

For a moment you stand there and consider dipping it all in donut glaze and rolling it in happiness, but instead...

"Well, my husband is out of town for the next 10 days, my kids have eaten cereal for 3 of the past 4 meals, I've been plagued by migraines for which I'm blaming the Polar Vortex, I feel like I stink at homeschooling since the majority of my children can't read yet and one of the ones I've had since birth asked me this week if he doubled 1/4 if it was a cup or half a cup, I'm 37 with 12 kids and for some reason I STILL want a baby and I know it will never happen but I can't let it go and it causes me great struggle in my spiritual life, I wish I made more money to do things like vacations and building a barn and a fence so we could have a dairy cow and maybe raise some for beef, too...but... YEAH we are all just FABULOUS!

What if we stepped out of the hallway every so often and shut the door into a quiet place with our friend and said "but how are you REALLY doing?"

What IF we all realized that we ALL have good days and bad days, but most days land somewhere in between?

What if we started to live life OFFline more than ONline?

What if we suddenly were able to see THROUGH the fog of happy-shroud and see the real life moments behind the madness? What if we read those super over-the-top braggy posts and instead saw the bedraggled mom who really just needs a moment to breathe, pray, have a bite of something yummy and carry on with her day? Maybe she's just a name-it-and-claim-it Facebooker. Faking it until she makes it. It's all good, Rainbow Brite! We feel ya!

If I've ever given you the impression that I have all my junk together, please let this post destroy that notion.

If I've ever made you feel inferior in any way by talking about something in my life, please know that there are 800 other things I feel like I fail at EVERY SINGLE DAY behind that one success.

And to the mommas out there dragging themselves to the coffee pot each day and begging it to percolate faster so that you can MAYBE finish that one cup of joe before the kids are all clamoring for breakfast and fighting for the "best" seat at the table... I'm right there with ya.

For the mommas who feel like they're failing at raising their children, failing at schooling them at home or failing while sending them off to are NOT alone.

For the mommas of a bajillionty kids like me who struggle with balancing the feelings we ALL have about what we can and can't provide...repeat my mantra after me "no one ever died from not going to disney." Our kids are growing up with the added benefit of living in a large family. Employers will know they can work well with others, they can be a team-player, and they will take few sick days because they've already been exposed to everything under the sun.

And with that... I feel healthy enough to come visit you in Facebook land again.

Until you start with that everyday-is-a-fancy-schmancy-holiday-at-our-home crap again.
That's the day I block your sunshiney self in the name of my own mental health.