Saturday, April 27, 2013

HAWMC, to Infinity and Beyond

All through April, I was supposed to be participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. It was supposed to be 30 days of activisty content. I've got several posts in the works right now of the NOT HAWMC variety, but I do want to finish out the last few days' worth of prompts. Here goes.
Day 21 - Adversity: It sounds so romantic to say that you thrive best under adversity. Like, that you have some superhuman strength or poise. And maybe some people do. But honestly? I believe we all have our crosses to bear, our issues to face. Yeah, being chronically ill isn't exactly a picnic. It probably does make me more compassionate, more aware. But would I turn down the chance to live adversity-free? Likely not.

Day 22 - Day to Day: For this prompt, I get to feel like Oprah, except instead of giving away my favorite things, I just get to list them. It's sort of the same, isn't it? So, in no particular order, here are ten things that make my gluten-free life waaaaaay better: Red Apple Lipstick, vanilla almond milk, Schar pasta, Udi's bread, Sweet Ali's anything, Kiss My Face lotion, my rice cooker, San-J tamari sauce, EOS lip balm and my GF community.

Day 23 - Technology: The prompt today asks us to think about a life without social media. I immediately rolled up into fetal position, because the idea is so terrifying to me. Over-dramatic, I know, but honestly, social media has saved my life since my diagnosis. Without the sense of community, the ready answers, the friendship - I would be totally lost. Even something as looking for a recipe on my Kindle pre-dinner takes me to Twitter, or Facebook, or someone's blog. Not to mention the support I get from my GFFs, both virtually and in real life. So no, don't want to lose social media.

Day 24 - Wordless Wednesday: This is a Pinterest prompt. But I have a confession: I am scared poopless of Pinterest. I already have a bit of a dependance on technology - I'm afraid by hopping down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest, I will never, ever get anything else accomplished. Ever. So since I don't need another time suck, I'm going to pass:)

Day 25 - Learning: If I had to share one thing I've learned, it's that you're not alone. It's trite, and a little cheesy, but 100% true. When you are dealing with chronic illness, it's very easy to feel isolated, despite your best efforts. But somewhere, right now, someone else is dealing with the very same issues.

Day 26 - Pain-Free Pass: If I could go symptom-free for ONE special day, it would have to be my sister's upcoming wedding. I'm the matron of honor, a job I've already rocked once GF, but it would be so nice to be able to focus JUST on wedding things and not on being all celiac-y.

Day 27 - Titles: Asking a librarian for great books? Get ready for a long list. Here's my fave GF lifestyle books:
Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic by Peter Green
Real Life with Celiac Disease by Melinda Dennis
Living Gluten-Free for Dummies by Danna Korn
Gluten Free, Hassle Free by Marlisa Brown
The Everything Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Cookbook by Carrie Forbes
Eat Like a Dinosaur by the Paleo Parents

Day 28 - Must Follow: If you're on the Twitter machine, here's a list of awesome people you should follow. If you're not following me, you should do that, too:) I can be found @divinemissliss. Also add:
@cravebakeshop, @geekilyGF, @celiacbeast, @tasteguru, @GlutenAway, @GFreeLaura, @mindfulpeaceom, @CeliacBeast. @glamwithoutgluten, @betsybetsybetsy, @frannycakesblog, @ManagingGFree, @GfreeJanelle, @RedAppleLipstic

Day 29 - Congratulations: Today I'm supposed to write about why I'm awesome, and let's be honest, it's tough to narrow it down (I kid. Sort of). Let's see. I think I rock because I'm compassionate, and a pretty smart cookie. I have a wacky sense of humor, and I try to fight the good fight every day to be a genuinely good person. And I have awesome taste in shoes.

Day 30 - Recap: It was a lot harder than I thought to do all 30 prompts, even breaking them into chunks like I did for the back end of the month. It was great to do some evaluating, and if I had writer's block, this would be a great way to get the juices flowing. I do think some posts were a little reflective for the nature of my blog, so next year, I might journal instead of blog. But I think anything I can write to raise awareness is a good thing, and as I wrap up this month, I'm getting ready with some awesome posts for my second annual Celiac Awareness Month in May.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Colonoscopy Survival Guide

Welcome to Overshare City. Population: Me. A couple of weeks ago, when I was looking for information like a reasonable person (and not at all frantically trolling the Internets like a crazypants), I was really surprised at the lack of good, coherent info on colonoscopy prep. Just about everything I found was medical instructions or doomsday-level warnings. For someone who thrives on always being prepared, it caught me off-guard that I was going into this with no genuine idea. So, in the name of science and information, and bypassing all boundaries of civilized society, I've come up with my own Colonoscopy Survival Guide. I'll try to spare you guys too much grossness, but it is what it is. Let's just rip the band-aid off right away: There will be poop. Lots of poop.

Hang on tight, this might get messy (that's what she said ... while doing a prep).

1. Understand your prep: I mean, really understand it. My doc suggested a prep mix of Miralax and Gatorade. Gentle, pleasant-tasting, the "easy" prep. Since she told me it was just the over-the-counter product, I put the paperwork on my desk and paid it no attention until the day before Prep Day. When I got the instructions out, I saw that it called for TWO bottles of Miralax ... which, to me, sounded a little excessive. I called the doc's office and was reassured by a nurse that it was correct. "Trust me," she said. "You'll be glad to be doing an easy prep. And if you mix it with cold Gatorade, you'll not even notice you're drinking it." I don't care what you mix it with, there is nothing easy about shotgunning 28 doses of laxative.
Lesson learned: Call if anything sounds fishy. But they will probably make you do it anyway. 

2. Drink up, Johnny: During Prep Day, you are allowed to have clear beverages and "foods" (I use "foods" because in no world is Jello considered a meal). I went a little nutso at the grocery store and bought GF chicken broth, lemon Jello, lemon Italian ice, apple juice, white grape juice, ginger ale ... if it was on the acceptable list, I bought it. And then I gorged myself on it from about 9 a.m. until I started prep at 3 p.m. Technically, you can still have those things while you are prepping, but putting more fluid into my body was the LAST thing I wanted to do. Try to build up a good base of calories - you're going to need them. And drink loads of water - you don't want to get dehydrated (which I did, because I stopped drinking water. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES, PEOPLE).
Lesson learned: Dehydration sucks. Drink more water. And then more apple juice. And then more water.

3. Boredom makes it worse: If you have a similar reaction to mine, you aren't going to be hanging out on the couch, watching Game of Thrones and occasionally having to hit "pause" to visit your own throne room. It's going to be a constant onslaught once things get started. My best advice is to gather up some reading material and a tablet or laptop. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I used my Kindle to watch some TV - from my bathroom! Thank you, Amazon Prime. We've shared a very intimate moment together. In my arsenal as well was my favorite scented candle (made the whole thing more zen), a couple bottles of water and my prep solution. If you are one of those folks who can hang out further than 10 feet away from your toilet, more power to you, but better safe than sorry (and by sorry, I mean doing unspeakable things to your somewhat new leather couch). Also, invest in good toilet paper and maybe some Vaseline. Yep, you're going to put it where you think. Yup, it's that intense. But a few schmears of Vaseline will save you the embarrassment of walking like a cowboy after a three-day range.
Lesson learned: Be overly prepared to entertain yourself in your bathroom. And not like that either, gutterminds.

4. Layer up: Once things start, ahem, happening, you might start feeling a little chilly (something about cold fluid jetstreaming through your body?). If you don't want to have to red-tag your blankets, bring a couple of big bath or beach towels into your new home with you. You'll be glad you did once you start shivering like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining. Also suggested: Fuzzy socks and a warm hoodie. I will tell you to stay away from wearing anything on your bottom half you wouldn't mind burning. Especially if you decide to venture beyond your porcelain throne. I know, we're having this much fun already and the real show hasn't even started yet.
Lesson learned: It is better to poop furiously at a comfortable temperature than to do it cold.

5. Just do it: Okay, you're moved into your new home. You've had the mail re-directed to your bathroom. You've got your Kindle/iPad/Fern Michaels novel all cued up and ready to go. You're wearing a sweater. You've got your favorite beach towel. Water's chilling in the cooler you packed for yourself (great job thinking ahead!). Now it's the moment of truth - time to drink the Kool-Aid (or Gatorade, whatever). Honestly, I found with my prep solution, it didn't taste all that bad. I had to do 8 ounces at a time, every half hour. I set my timer, used a straw and sucked it down like a big girl. It took about two doses to get the party started, but once it did, much like a Kesha song, the party don't stop. I was worried about yakking it up, and then having to do it all. over. again., so I had to pause a couple times once I got toward the end, but it really didn't make me feel nauseous. I made the mistake of not drinking anything but my prep after I started at 3 p.m., and um, things were happening until almost midnight. This is why I needed multiple bags of IV fluid the next day. Don't be me, kids. Drink the water (see Item 2).
Lesson learned: Pirate up. You have to do it, so just put your head down and power through. (And also? DRINK THE FREAKING WATER).

6. BYOB: Okay, maybe not your own "b", but if you are gluten-free, pack a snack bag for the hospital. When you wake up, after you've made some hiney music, you are going to want something to eat and drink. My hospital is not GF-friendly, and I gave my mom specific orders to pistol-whip anyone who tried to feed drugged Alissa any Famous Amos. I brought a baggie of Ian's cookie buttons and a bottle of apple juice that I knew were safe. I was glad I did, I needed sugar like whoa when I woke up (full disclosure: my procedures got pushed back by more than three hours on the day of. If I was hangry when I went in there, I was rage-starving when I came out).
Lesson learned: Let your awesome, "be prepared" mindset carry over to the next day and bring yourself some safe snacks.

All in all, it wasn't the horrible experience I was expecting it to be. Granted, it isn't fun (unless you are into some pretty weird stuff, and then, I don't want to know what you were Google searching that brought you here). And by the end of the night on Prep Day, I sort of did feel like death on a stick. But it was my own fault for getting dehydrated. I was able to sleep through the night from midnight until about 7 a.m., but be prepared, because activities WILL start up again the next day. Totally normal. You shouldn't panic and cry at the first nurse you see because you think you're going to fail your colonoscopy because DEAR GOD, WHY WON'T IT STOP?!?  In the end (ha, yep, in the end, that's how the whole thing goes), you'll be in and out of your procedure without even knowing what was happening. You'll have a better knowledge of the amazing feat of nature that is your digestive tract, and you'll have done something proactive for your health. And if that isn't enough to soothe your nerves, just think of the awesome drugs they give you.

Three Things Thursday

It's Thursday again. How can that be already? Seems like just yesterday I was wrapping up last week's Three Things while watching half of Chicago getting stuck under water.

1. In case you missed my recap of the GFAF Expo last weekend, you should check it out for some awesome products coming our way soon from some of my fave companies. And yes, I do rave about some vegan cheese. Who have I become?

2. I'm really excited to announce that I'm going to be contributing monthly to Taste Guru's awesome blog. Details to come, but I'm psyched to be working with Laura and the rest of the team.

3. If you are in the Pasadena area, make sure to get your tickets to the Celiac Disease Foundation's annual Education Conference and Gluten-Free Expo next weekend (May 4 & 5). I can't be there, but you can visit with Glam Without Gluten and Celiac and the Beast, and hear some butt-kicking speakers. If you go, I want to hear all about it!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

GFAF Expo 2013

This past weekend, instead of cowering under layers of fleece and counting down the minutes until the next episode of Game of Thrones, I had the chance to attend one of the most awesome gluten-free events of the year, the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo. I had been looking forward to this year's expo since last year, and I knew I'd be attending come hell or high water (and there was some high water around these parts. Spring, you're drunk, go home). Getting to go to the event as an official blogger was just icing on the gluten-free cake (and yes, there was loads of cake).

The products:

With more than 180 vendors in attendance, there was something for just about everyone. In the two days that I was there, I probably sampled just about everything that I could sample, and then some. There were some hits, some misses, and some W-T-Fs (I still can't figure out the window salesguys). I'll just hit the highlights for you guys.

Biggest surprise: Teese Vegan Nacho Cheese
Seriously, I never thought I'd be going back for seconds on a vegan cheese product, but this spicy nacho Teese melted delightfully. I visited them both days, just to be sure.

Must-buy product: The Glutenfreeda chipotle chicken pocket
This product is so new, it's not even on their Web site yet. Imagine Hot Pockets if Hot Pockets didn't taste like death. The chicken was my favorite, but they also have a ham and cheese and breakfast option. Perfect for last-minute lunches.

Baking mix I hope I don't screw up: Crave Bake Shop
Well, Kyra from Crave Bake Shop won me over immediately with her chocolate cupcakes, and I bought three boxes of her mixes to bring home. I'm glad I nabbed them on the first day - she sold out early!

Killer cereal: Vans and Freedom Foods
There were two awesome cereal products I got to try - Van's new Honey Nut Crunch, which reminded me of Honey Nut Cheerios, and Freedom Foods Tropico's. You guys, these fruity rings taste like another round, "frooty" product that is now off limits. I bought a couple of boxes to bring home, and I really hope they find their way to Whole Foods soon.

Local favorites: Sweet Ali's, Kiki's, Pinstripes and Gusteau's
While I always love me some Sweet Ali's, there is room in my heart for Kiki's, as well. This Chicago-based company is selling their spinach pies to restaurants, but not to the general public yet, which is sooooo sad, because it was one of the greatest things I tried all weekend. I don't know how they did it, but they managed to make an incredibly flaky crust that was to die for. I was also happy to see the folks from Pinstripes, and thanked them for the awesome time (and great pizza) we had for Luke's birthday last month (and I grabbed some free wine bracelets, so I guess I'll have to go back). I had the chance to visit a potential favorite in Gusteau's Gluten Free Shoppe, which is set to open in May in Lemont. It's a short drive from my house, so I can't wait for this totally gluten-free takeout place to open it's doors.

Pizza, pizza: Smart Flour
I ate a lot of pizza and pizza-like products, and while most were pretty good, the best by far was Smart Flour. It was crispy and yummy, and I can't wait until June when they will be available in Whole Foods.

Best beer before 11 a.m.: New Planet
You know it's going to be a good day when you've sampled five beers before noon. I've been a big fan of New Planet's Raspberry Ale since I first tried it, but after taking their beer tour, I found a new love in their Belgian brew. I know what's going in my garage beer fridge for the summer.

Friendliest company: Schar
Can I just say that I love Schar? We use their pasta and rolls pretty religiously at my house, and if that wasn't enough, they also threw a dinner for bloggers and vendors Friday night before the expo. Schar gluten-free guru Anne Roland Lee is so smart and helpful (check out her series of videos with the Celiac Diva for some great info about the GF lifestyle). Their new product, a chocolate-covered hazelnut bar, is pretty dang close to a KitKat. You know, if you miss that sort of thing.

Best in show: Red Apple Lipstick
I was so, so happy to get to visit with my friends from Red Apple Lipstick this weekend. Andrea, Jay and Stephanie took such good care of me, and I brought home a load of new product. I had fun hanging out at their booth and helping pick colors for new buyers. If you haven't tried them already, I seriously suggest checking them out. I use their Rallye Balm for everything from dry lips to sunburn, and you can feel confident you are getting a gluten-free, paraben-free, awesome product every time. End gush.

The people:
Brace yourselves, because it's about to get a little fangirly up in here. I've said it before and I'll say it again, and again - a large part of what pushes me to keep blogging is the community. We GF-ers, we sort of rock. So when you gather us together for a weekend? Things get real. I absolutely loved getting to meet, in real life, people I'd only known by blog names or Twitter handles. I got to spend most of the weekend hanging with the glorious Betsy, who is a kindred spirit/celiac sister/Chicagoland girl. We laughed, we cried, we sat in weird wooden boxes. I got to hang out with Erica from Celiac and the Beast. I've been looking forward to meeting her since I started reading her blog many moons ago. I knew we'd hit it off, and we sure did. I also got to meet up with the absolutely adorable G-Free Laura, who was there repping Taste Guru (you'll be hearing about them in another post). And Kyra from Crave Bakeshop is just about the sweetest person ever, and she fed me chocolate cupcakes all weekend, so I'm pretty sure that means we're best friends now (at least, on my end). Plus, I got to meet up with the hilarious and geekily GF Mel (and her super-hero alter-ego), the rockin' Andrea, Pretty Little Celiac Rebecca, Pam from I'm A Celiac, and even had dinner with Healthy Family's Caryn.

Thanks to the GFAF Expo team for such a great event, and for inviting bloggers to attend and share. I can't wait for next year!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Three Things Thursday

As I write this, I am wrapped in blankets, sipping apple juice and snuggling with my dog, all while watching most of Chicago float past my window. It's been a weird freaking day.

1. I had my two scopes done yesterday. I'm prepping a full post about preparing for and undergoing an endoscopy/colonoscopy, because that nonsense is ripe with material. I won't have my full results for a couple of weeks, but call me Miss Cleo, because I predicted the gastritis the doc found at a glance. Oh, medical fun.

2. If anyone is in the Chicagoland area, and is in the ark-building business, you might want to get your hammers ready. From what I've seen on the news, flooding is cray-cray all over the area. We don't have a basement, and have pretty good drainage in our subdivision, so we're okay, but some roads have been entirely shut down, and the canal by my work is up several feet. Welcome to spring in Chitown. We do it up grand.

3. As I sit here, with a sore throat and tender tummy, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I feel like million bucks by tomorrow for the GFAF Expo. Tomorrow night's festivities include a Schar-sponsored pizza party that all the cool kids are going to (and how did I snag an invite? This must be a mistake). Then, Saturday and Sunday, come visit us at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg for the most awesomest gluten-free event of the year. Tickets to the expo are $20, and well worth it. I, for one, can't wait to hang out with Betsy, and finally get to meet Erica!

Monday, April 15, 2013

HAWMC Day ... Oh, Screw It

All through April, I was supposed to be participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. It was supposed to be 30 days of activisty content.

But, instead of being in addition to my usual posts, it overtook my usual posts. The past couple weeks, I haven't had too much stuff to talk about, so I was totally fine with prompt-driven posts. But this week, some exciting things are happening, and they deserve to be the focus - things like the party that is my first colonoscopy (I was going to live Tweet, but that might be too much even for me) and my Christmas - the GFAF Expo.

So, to keep the spirit of HAWMC going, here's a five-cent tour of the topics for Days 14-20:

 Day 14 - Spread the Love: There's some awesome activists out there. You can check out my Pretty Rad Reads for great gluten-free bloggers, or visit WEGO's site to cheer on other health activists.

Day 15 - Sharing: I dropped the ball on finding a guest poster, so instead, I'm just going to share a few random, non-celiac facts about me. 1) I once interviews Bobby Flay for the newspaper I used to work at. 2) I hate raw onions. SO MUCH. 3) I once accidentally gave my sister a black eye while I was dancing. Dangerous on the dance floor indeed.

Day 16 - Misinformation: Three truths and a lie style, celiac edition: 1. Having celiac means your whole dietary life has to change (Truth). 2. Celiac is an autoimmune disease, so it can affect more than just your gut (Truth). 3. You can have celiac disease and never have any gastro issues at all (Truth, but sadly, not the case for me). 4. A little bit of gluten won't hurt you (LIE).

Day 17 - Wordless Wednesday: How happy I am eating GF food.

Day 18 - "I take it back!"/Lashing out: Yikes. This one is tricky, because I have a pretty short temper (but I'm getting better!). I would say I take back all the things I threw at my poor, dear husband the first time we cleaned my pantry and kitchen out when I went gluten free. I hurled box after box of things I once loved and could no longer eat. I didn't break anything, but Luke is lucky he's a good ducker.

Day 19 - Vintage: Here is an old picture of Luke and I. It's from a NYE party we threw like 7 or 8 years ago. I was pretty sick, but we didn't know why.

Day 20 - Burnout: So, what puts me in the pit of despair? Not as much does now as did a year ago. I get sad when I have to cancel plans because I'm feeling particularly gross. I get a little depressed when I see commercials for old favorite restaurants. Some days, I'm just tired of having to think about every. single. thing. that goes in my mouth or comes in contact with my body. When I have those days, the best thing I can do is distract myself - either with a project, or a book, or a GF cupcake.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

HAWMC Day 13: Playing with Words

All through April, I'm participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. In addition to my usual posts, I'm going for 30 days of activisty content. Today's prompt: Poetry

Celiac, oh, celiac
Must you make my guts so whack?
Must you steal my energy?
Even when I've been gluten-free?
Why do you make my iron low?
Your brain fog make my thoughts so slow?
Did you have to hit my joints?
Was that all for bonus points?

What'd my villi do to you?
Did you have to eff my teeth up, too?
And make me such a nervous wreck?
All in fun, for you, I expect.

But celiac, I've got news for you.
I've got your number, I sure do.
I can't cure you, not right now.
But I'll fight back, when I figure out how. 

And I'll defeat you, whatever it takes,
With resistance, strength, and many cupcakes.

Friday, April 12, 2013

HAWMC Day 12

All through April, I'm participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. In addition to my usual posts, I'm going for 30 days of activisty content. Today's prompt: Hindsight.

I always hated the saying "Hindsight is 20/20." Clearly. Woulda, coulda, shoulda has never really been my game. Mostly. 


If I could go back to that day that I was diagnosed, when I took the call from a helpful nurse while I was in the middle of Jewel buying pasta (regular, of all things) for dinner, I would tell myself to breathe. It sounds trite, I know, but if you've ever tried to restrain an ugly cry in the middle of your neighborhood grocer, you will know that it's important to remember to inhale.

As I stood, shaking, in the pasta aisle (I still can't get over how fitting that whole thing was), I was terrified. I knew next to nothing about gluten, or celiac, except what I had Googled when the doc first mentioned it in passing. I'm sure fellow shoppers were at least curious about the sniffling mess hiding out in the Organic/Gluten Free aisle crying over boxes of quinoa rotini. But I rallied. Instead of panicking and running to Pizza Hut, I bought my first box of GF pasta and that was that.

I wish I could have hugged that girl (which is why I creepily approach people in the GF aisle at the grocery store - trying to be that helping hand, I guess). I would have told her that, yes, the next couple of months would totally blow. There would be tears. And thrown boxes. Maybe a couple of thrown punches. But it would get better. I would have told her she would have found a passion, and a support system, and a love for Nutella that was deep and unyielding. I'd have told her about all the good things that were coming her way. I don't think she would have believed me, but I would have tried.

And if nothing else, I would have consoled that poor, stressed girl with some Sweet Alis.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Three Things Thursday

I think I must officially be royalty, because I got my crown today. After last week's broken tooth debacle, I'm elated to get back to chewing again ... just in time to be on a liquid diet for a few days. Joy. Anyway, here's three non-toothy things for this week.

1. As I draw nearer and nearer to my scope/colonoscopy duo of fun next week, I'm starting to freak out more and more. I'm not scared of the scope - did that last year and did just fine. But if any of you have had positive experiences with the other nonsense, please give words of wisdom. And if you have horror stories, keep them to yourself. I've already done enough damage to my mental health, thanks to Google.

2.We're about two weeks in to WEGO's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge, and so far, I've done all the prompts. You can check out my posts here. You can also visit WEGO's Facebook page for more health activists' posts.

3. The countdown is on - the Chicago GFAF Expo is next weekend! I'm so excited, I can't even stand it. I get to finally meet up with some of the other bloggers I follow, plus hang out with the vendors, bringing y'all the latest and greatest in gluten-free noms. And I get to stay in a hotel, which is even more awesome.

HAWMC Day 11: There's an App for That

All through April, I'm participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. In addition to my usual posts, I'm going for 30 days of activisty content. Today's prompt: Favorite iPhone app and social network.

I'm a late adopter to the cult of Apple. I got my first iPhone, a 3G, right about the time that the 4 was coming out. I still have it. And though I think my trusty iPhone may be in its last days, I know that I couldn't have made it through my first months gluten-free without it. There are loads of apps out there for specialty diets, and I have two favorites that I recommend to everyone who is going GF.

The first is Find Me Gluten Free. Not only is it super easy to use, it's incredibly thorough. Essentially, it's a "safe" restaurant guide, but what I love is that not only can you see the GF menus, you can also read user reviews. It comes in handy in tight spots where you might be in unfamiliar territory and STARVING, but it also opens your eyes to new places that are nearby. Love this app (and, it's FREE.)

I also love Is That Gluten Free? This one comes with a $7.99 price tag, but I think it's totally worth it. It's basically a database of grocery store products that you can search through to find stats about gluten content. It's been incredibly helpful those times I've been shopping in a hurry and needed to have a safe brand of pickle/pasta sauce/ice cream, etc.

As for social networks, I've always been a big fan of Facebook (I've had an account since the very beginning, when it was just open to college students). In fact, I'm a bit of a FB junkie. I joined Twitter last year, and I love how instantaneous the interactions are there. Not going to lie, it's a little addicting.

What are your favorite apps? Are you on FB or Twitter?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

HAWMC Day 10: Wordless Wednesday

All through April, I'm participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. In addition to my usual posts, I'm going for 30 days of activisty content. Today's prompt: Post your favorite picture of yourself.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Take Time Tuesday

After the nasty week I had, I couldn't wait for Take Time Tuesday this week. I needed perspective like whoa. Head on over to Live Life Half Full for more gratitude, or to link up.

Live Half Full
This week, I'm grateful for:

1. Insurance and a good dentist. Even though I *hate* dental work, when I cracked a molar last week, in the midst of the pain and aggravation, I was really grateful that I had a kind, compassionate dentist who had an opening in his schedule just hours after I called. And even though I'm going to have to take out a second mortgage for my new oral accessory, I'm grateful I have insurance to cover at least part of it. Also grateful for painkillers and Novacaine.

2. Old friends ... and new. This weekend, despite having a celiac flare-up, I got to spend some time with amazing people. From a low-key dinner at my house to a brunch with some *new* gluten-free homies (like the fabulous Betsy) to our annual Wrestlemania party with the boys, it was nice to be surrounded by such great folks.
Kelly, my token non-GF BF
 3. Sunshine. It seems way trite, but the springy weather we've been having has done wonders for lifting me out of my recent blahs. You can even see sprouts sticking up out of the ground. Let the happies commence.

4. Game of Thrones. My inner nerd has been waiting for this since the last season ended. I *finally* finished book 5 of the series last fall, and I'm having a really hard time not just busting out with spoilers while Luke and I are watching. Maybe I should just keep stuffing my face with cookies to make sure.

HAWMC Day 9: Parental Guidance

All through April, I'm participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. In addition to my usual posts, I'm going for 30 days of activisty content. My take on today's prompt: Parents just DO understand.

If you walk into my parents' laundry room, you'll see a stack of pots and pans. They don't do much cooking in the washer/dryer. Those pots and pans are mine. As in, special, gluten-free only cookware. There are usually a couple of Udi's pizza crusts in their freezer, and my mom is probably the only person in the southwest Chicago suburbs who spends more money than I do at Sweet Ali's.

I don't live with my parents. And as of yet, no one else in that household has any need to go gluten free. They do these things because it was important to them that I feel safe and welcome in their house. My whole family has adapted to my situation in a way that still sometimes baffles me.

Since being diagnosed, it's not just MY life that's been flipped. My husband, my parents, my sisters - everyone's had to learn to deal with the ball of nonsense that is celiac. And if they get frustrated, I never hear about it. That means more than they will ever know.

My mom has told me many times that, as a parent, it's hard to watch your child suffering - whether your child is six, or pushing 30. I don't have kids of my own yet, but I think I understand the sentiment.

So if you are the parent of a child with a chronic illness - no matter how old that "child" may be - follow my parents' lead. Be patient, be supportive, and find some gluten-free cookies.

Monday, April 8, 2013

HAWMC Day 8: Grrrr-animals

All through April, I'm participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. In addition to my usual posts, I'm going for 30 days of activisty content. Today's prompt: If your health condition was an animal, what would it be?

As a children's librarian with a flair for storytime, I spend a lot of my time with kids making animal sounds. We're pretty much constantly roaring like lions, chomping like alligators or hoo-hoo hee-heeing like monkeys.

But when it comes to my celiac, I'm not sure a ferocious roar or an annoying squeak really encompasses it. So what animal would celiac be?

Well, you can certainly compare it to a bear ... if just for the sounds that it makes. Seriously. Or maybe it's a snake, since it's slithery and hard to catch. Maybe an elephant, 'cause there's lots of poop. Or a billy goat, because it can mess with your mood and make you gruff, a sloth because sometimes it's all you can do to just LAY somewhere. You could compare it to a black widow, because all it takes is something tiny to knock you out. My illness is kangaroo-like, in that I constantly need to have a pouch (full of snacks, usually) pretty much attached to me. Or a goldfish, because once I'm glutened and the brain fog kicks in, my attention span is roughly negative two seconds.

I guess what it boils down to is that it's a zoo in here.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

HAWMC Day 7: Senstationalize!

All through April, I'm participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. In addition to my usual posts, I'm going for 30 days of activisty content. Today's prompt: Say WHAT? What's the most ridiculous thing you've heard about your health condition?

I'm not really a "my suffering is worse than your suffering" kind of girl. I think we all have valid problems in our lives, and I'm not one to belittle the struggles that other people go through. Which is why it burns my gluten-free biscuits when people do that to me and my illness. Because the treatment for celiac disease is essentially food based, people tend to think it's not important, painful or serious. Apparently, you only have an illness if you take a pill. But there is no pill for celiac disease. No cure. There's no telling when you can have a flare up. I hate that I have to fight so hard to have my autoimmune disease taken seriously. What follows below are things people have ACTUALLY said to me, either exactly or in spirit. Let's just say my intestines aren't the only things inflamed. 

"I would die if I couldn't eat bread any more! Seriously. I'd have to kill myself."

"Oooh, lucky. You're going to get so skinny!"

"Gluten? That's, like, sugar, right?"


"Sure, we can do gluten-free here. Just don't eat the pasta and you should be fine."

"Psht, you're just gluten-free? You won't ever get better unless you are totally grain free. And dairy free. And vegan. And also you can't drink alcohol. Or breathe air."

"Come on. A little bit won't kill you."

"Seriously? I would crap my pants for a week to eat a piece of this cake. Worth it."

"I'm gluten free, too! It's like South Beach, right? Ooooh, since I had a gluten-free dinner, I'm totally splurging on this cookie!"

"What do you mean, flare-up? Take some Immodium and stop complaining. It's just a stomach ache."

"Why would your joints hurt? I'm pretty sure you're making that up."

"Why would you need a cure? Just stop eating bread."

"Too bad you can't eat what we catered. You can just pick the croutons off of the salad."

"Why are you complaining? You could have something much worse."

Moral of the story? Despite my gruff demeanor, I'm a sensitive soul. And if you get mouthy with me about my illness, I will cut you.*

* Not actually cut you, because that would be wrong. More like cut you with words. Mostly.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

HAWMC Day 6: Older and Hopefully Wiser

All through April, I'm participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. In addition to my usual posts, I'm going for 30 days of activisty content. Today's assignment is writing a letter, either to an older me, or to my illness. Since I'm a rebel, I chose to write it to younger me.

Dear 20-year-old Alissa,

PUT DOWN THE CEREAL! Don't give me that look. I know you are elbows deep in some Apple Jacks right now. Or maybe it was Froot Loops. Or Count Chocula. Doesn't matter. I'd bet my meager yearly wages that as you read this, you are nomming on some kid-friendly breakfast fare, even though it's 11 p.m. and you should probably be writing that paper for class. I realize this is the first meal you've had today, since the cafeteria was closed for some mysterious reason and you couldn't stand the thought of a food-court dinner again. But you are killing yourself slowly, darling.

Are you laughing at me? You shouldn't be. I know all about you. I know about your "nervous stomach." I'm very familiar with the B-12 injections you get whenever you're home, the iron pills you have to toss back like TicTacs. I can tell you the tally of Z-Packs you've been on, because I know it takes two hands to count the sinus infections you've had since the beginning of the school year.

Ooh, I struck a nerve, did I? What about the laundry list of symptoms you take with you to the doctor's office? I know every trip you make - at least quarterly - you have a small, folded piece of paper with your complaints stuffed in the pocket of your hoodie. I know that the doctor gently chides you for being a high-strung hypochondriac. I know how even though that hurts to hear, you believe it.

Would you believe me if I told you it was going to get worse before it gets better? Would you believe me if I showed you the bottles and bottles of pills you were taking for illnesses you didn't have? What about the "white" diet you got put on to ease your symptoms? Nothing like dry toast and crackers to soothe what ails you ... except it's only getting worse. I could tell you about your rupturing cysts, but not in great detail - just know that on one June morning in 2010, you are going to feel like you are dying (you aren't). Or maybe about that week in 2011 that you make not one but two trips to the ER for fluids. You'll probably never eat sushi again, but it wasn't the California roll's fault.

Now that I've got your attention, heed my words very carefully: Find a new doctor. You are not okay. This is not in your head. Go on, do it now. I'll wait. You've got some amazing things coming up in your life. I'd hate for you to miss them because you're in the bathroom.

Yours in amaranth,
Older (but not old, dammit) Alissa

Friday, April 5, 2013

HAWMC Day 5: Taking Over the World

All through April, I'm participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. In addition to my usual posts, I'm going for 30 days of activisty content. Today's prompt: If you could do anything as a health activist ...
Let's be honest. I'm a bit of a control freak. The phrase "if I was in charge" leaves my mouth multiple times weekly. I can't help it. I'm a first-class know-it-all. I always have been. So HAWMC Day 5's prompt has me power-tripping all over the place: If I could do ANYTHING as a health activist, what would I do?

Cupcakes. Gluten-free cupcakes for everyone. Good ones, too. And I'd make gluten-free products readily available and cheap, and I'd make fruits and veggies and *good* meat so much cheaper than blue-box mac and cheese. I'd train restaurant staff members what "gluten-free" really means, so celiacs could dine out safely, and I'd put Pepto dispensers in every public bathroom, just in case. I'd magically impart wisdom to medical practitioners, so that when a patient comes in with a laundry list of symptoms, and none of them make sense, they would just automatically test for celiac. I'd organize 5Ks and 10Ks and all kinds of Ks to raise money, and awareness, for my cause. I'd make it so that people, even people without celiac, would know what it is, and wouldn't belittle the severity of this illness by reducing it down to "the gluten thing." I'd make better labeling laws, and make GMOs a thing of the past. I'd hug everyone who at one point or another has broken down into ugly cries in the grocery store because they can't eat any of the things they'd come to love. I'd create a totally gluten-free spa and resort some place tropical, and I'd send all my fellow celiackies there to veg out for a week, because God knows we've all earned a break.

And also, I think I'd like to fly.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Three Things Thursday

You know how sometimes, things just come together? Like, almost by magic?

Yeah, this was not one of those weeks.

If you want rainbows, check out my post from earlier for HAWMC. If you're in for a heaping helping of grump city, you've come to the right place.

1. More evidence that cereal is trying to kill me: While noshing on my Honey Nut Chex yesterday morning, I felt an unusual crunch. I expected to find any number of things: a stale cereal piece, some plastic, maybe a human finger. I didn't expect to find half a tooth. So, dental-phobic me got to spend an hour and a half with my dentist up to his elbows in my oral region. Added bonus: I get a crown, which must mean I'm royalty. Downside: Other than pain, inconvenience, and a general sense of terror that all of my teeth are going to fall out (thanks, celiac!), I also got a hefty bill. I wonder if I can make installment payments on my tooth?

2. After a nice visit with my gastro last week, it was determined that the double-dose of fun I'd been hoping to avoid was inevitable. So, in two weeks I'll be living the dream of an endoscopy/colonoscopy duo. To say I'm nervous is an understatement. Those of you who've been through it, please tell me it's not that bad. Even if you have to lie. Added pressure: I'm having this all done three days before the GFAF Expo I'm covering. Downside: Not sure how I'm going to feel. Upside: I hear that the prep essentially cleans out meals that you have yet to eat, so that means I'll be nice and hungry for all those GF samples.

3. Oh, screw it. Let's all just go and eat Glutino toaster pastries, okay?

HAWMC Day 4: Care-A-Lot

All through April, I'm participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. In addition to my usual posts, I'm going for 30 days of activisty content. Today's prompt: Create a "care page."

I was really into Care Bears when I was a wee little lass*. I guess I can blame being a child of the '80s (we made a lot of questionable decisions. Mall bangs, anyone?). But who wouldn't love to live in the magical land of Care-A-Lot, with an army of little, fuzzy, adorable creatures just waiting to shoot rainbows out of their bellies at whatever trouble they ran across?

Well, I'm not that little, and since I shaved the ol' gams this morning, I'm really not that fuzzy. And while I do have the tendency to shoot stuff out of my belly, very seldom is it a happy rainbow. But I've been trying here to create a slice of Care-A-Lot in this not-so-caring world. Today's HAWMC challenge was to create a care page, but, really, I feel like I'm trying to do that in every post.

I suppose I could tell you that the best Web resources that I've found are listed here.

And that I've also found some wonderful products, and great restaurants, and fellow celiac or gluten-free bloggers to help you on your journey.

But I think the most caring thing I could tell a newly diagnosed person is this:

It will be okay. You will be okay.

You don't have to believe me. I wouldn't have believed me at first either. Changing your whole entire life is an incredibly daunting task. You will be exhausted. And angry. You might be hungry. But it will get better.

And maybe you, too, will be called to over-share your life on the Internet. And maybe one day, someone will call/e-mail/tweet you, hoping you can help them, because they just got a celiac diagnosis, and they're so overwhelmed. Pay it forward. We're all in this together.

* Full disclosure: I have a Care Bears coloring book still. Coloring helps me de-stress. De-stressing makes me less stabby. And also, it creates things for me to hang on my fridge.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

HAWMC Day 2: Getting to Know You ... I Mean, Me

All through April, I'm participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. In addition to my usual posts, I'm going for 30 days of activisty content. Today's prompt: Introduce your conditions.

Today's prompt is "introductions," and let me tell you, I'm totally singing the song "Getting to Know You" from The King and I in my head right now. Maybe it's the topic, maybe I've got Yule Brynner on the brain from our annual marathon watching of The Ten Commandments this past weekend. Either way, I've a song in my heart, so let's get started. I apologize to anyone who's been around the blog for a while - you're probably not going to learn any new deep, dark secrets about me. Sorry. But I probably will talk about pooping.

Hello, my name is Alissa, and I have celiac disease. What's celiac disease? WHAT'S CELIAC DISEASE?!? ...Okay, I don't blame you. I had never heard of it either. Here's the dime store version (aside: are there dime stores any more? There should be): Celiac is an autoimmune disease that basically tears apart your small intestine. It's sort of a sucker-punch to the gut. For a lot of people, the digestive symptoms can get pretty nasty (yay! Poop talk!), but it can affect pretty much any of your body's systems, so some celiacs have neurological symptoms, joint issues, so on and so forth. We're usually pretty depleted on vitamins, too, since the disease messes with the body's ability to absorb nutrients. It's class A fun stuff here. There is no cure for celiac, and the only treatment is a life-long gluten-free diet. For someone who once considered a box of Froot Loops and a banana a well-balanced meal, originally this diagnosis was somewhat ... off-putting.

But, you either get over it, or you get under it, and I decided to make this lemon into some gluten-free lemonade. This blog has been chronicling my journey. Sometimes, there's cupcakes. Sometimes, there's crying. A lot of times, there's both.

So, that's me in a nutshell. Thanks for stopping by. You can read more about my wacky celiacky here, or here, or even here. And check out some of my favorite GF bloggers here, and some wonderful resources here.

Take Time Tuesday

Last week, I linked up with Katie over at Live Life Half Full for Take Time Tuesdays, and I liked it so much, I thought I'd do it again. Have you taken time today to just be grateful for something?

Live Half Full
This week, I'm grateful for:

1. So many amazing health activists out there! Last week, WEGO Health hosted their award ceremony for health activists getting out there and doin' their thing. Even though I lost out on the Hilarious Health Activist Award I was up for, it truly was an honor to get to know so many folks who have chosen to use their battles to inspire all of us.

2. Sweet Ali's gluten-free dinner rolls. I bought the frozen dough as my contribution to Easter dinner. Easy, peasy and super yummy. Plus, since I had to actually put them in the oven, it sort of counts as cooking.

3. Spending time with family. This past weekend, I got loads of face time with my parents and my baby sister. The only thing missing was my other little sis:( And I'm incredibly grateful that my family took the pains so I could have an entirely GF Easter dinner, complete with desserts. Loves them.

4. Emily's closet. Seriously, any time that girl cleans out her closet, I end up with loads of nice clothes. 'Cept she didn't let me keep this awesome jacket.

Monday, April 1, 2013

HAWMC Day 1: Why?

All through April, I'm participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. In addition to my usual posts, I'm going for 30 days of activisty content. Today's prompt: Why do you write, and why HAWMC?

I love a challenge. It's a good thing, because the past year has been chock full of them. But this month's challenge is a fun one - I'm participating in WEGO's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge (from here on known as HAWMC). I love the folks at WEGO not only because I was nominated for one of their activist awards, but because they are supportive of all health advocates, and they encourage us to have our own voices, which is something that's becoming increasingly important to me.

So onward, to Day #1: A big, fat "Why?"
Why do I write about celiac disease? Because I have it. Because I think it's important for the world at large to know what it is. Because we're elbows deep in so many GMO foods, and both the prevalence of celiac  AND the diagnosing of it are on an upward swing. Because I like to eat out at restaurants, and don't want to end up sick. Because I've always been a rebel, and I finally found my cause. Because, in the words of the fabulous Chrissy at Glam Without Gluten, "I didn't pick this celiac, this celiac picked me." And why did I choose to participate in HAWMC? I think that question is harder to answer. I love that so many of us can come together on this project and share our own illnesses, while learning about others'. I like that it's going to challenge me as a writer, to follow 30 different prompts, in addition to my usual posting. I hope it's going to inspire at least one person to learn more about celiac.

So, to my fellow GF bloggers, why do you do what you do? And to my readers, why do you pick the blogs you pick?