Gluten free: Day 2

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Me: If I do this for 3 days, people will say that I should have done it for a week. If I do it for a week, people will say I should have done it for 2 weeks. If I do it for 2 weeks, people will say I will have to do it for a year before I see any benefits.

Mike: Even a juice cleanse takes at least 3 days. Be thankful you’re not having just lemon juice and anchovies.

Me: Anchovies? A cleanse is lemon juice and cayenne pepper.

Mike: ……..in England they use anchovies.

Day 2 began with Kashi Indigo Morning cereal, which is cornflakes with freeze dried blueberries and blackberries. I weighed out the serving size on the nutrition label, thought, Aww, that’s adorable, and poured some more. The flavor of the cereal was decent and it has a good crunch. It left my hunger somewhat satisfied, but definitely not full. Fortunately, a cup of coffee finished filling me up. The flakes left kernels stuck in my teeth like I had eaten popcorn, perfect for second breakfast later.

At lunchtime, I tried the brown rice pasta and chicken meatballs. The pasta was a bit chewy, but the taste and texture wasn’t really different from regular pasta. It also reminded me that I really need to bottle my own sauce. Bottled is okay in a pinch, but it always seems to have an aftertaste to it.

That entire day, I felt like a shell of a person. A very, very fatigued shell. On the plus side, my hunger wasn’t as bad as it normally is. The food I ate seemed to sustain me for longer periods of time, and when hunger came, it didn’t suddenly crash.

The magic of elves

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I, like most people, get songs stuck in my head. It’s not only that, though. I also tend to get words or phrases stuck in my head. Sometimes it’s the name of a place, like Macchu Picchu. Sometimes it’s lines from movies or a tv show. For reasons unknown to me, when I read the Body Science book to Rachael, the term vas deferens made its home in my mind. The rhythmic squeaking of the girl’s LeapPads when they erase something conjures up the words hush puppies, said in time with each squeak. My bizarre masterpiece thus far, though, is when octogenarian was stuck in my head. Somehow, the Uruk-hai in The Two Towers insisting, “They are not for eating,” when the other orcs wanted to eat Merry and Pippin wandered in. It was closely followed by Winnie the Pooh lamenting, “I wasn’t going to eat it. I was just going to taste it.” The result?

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Yeah. I know most of you are backing away slowly from your computers right now. This has a point, though. I promise.

I’ve been having a hard time lately. I’ve been running on empty. I think my medication for depression and anxiety isn’t working as well as it used to, which my doctor warned was a possibility with Cymbalta. The pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia has left me feeling hopeless and helpless. The likelihood that I will live with this for the rest of my life, and I’m not quite 33, makes me feel trapped. Yesterday was particularly bad. Fortunately a nap helped make things feel less desperate.

Today, my energy is alright and my pain is mostly in my feet. Even so, today, just like every day, is a battle to not give in to the fatigue and pain. To not give in to the depression and resign myself to being listless on the couch. To not give up the hope that I still have good days ahead of me and that I could possibly get better some day.
It’s actually kind of hard to keep the fight in me once I step into the warm, relaxing embrace of my morning shower. As I stand there with my eyes closed, letting my muscles relax, it’s easy to say, Fuck it, and just give in. Today, though, I was saved by words suddenly springing to mind. At first, I just heard the voice behind the words, pleading. Then the words formed, “Don’t give in. Not now.” The words Lady Arwen said to Frodo as he began to pass into The Shadow. For some strange reason, I felt bolstered by these words. I know it’s weird, but whatever works, right? As they repeated in my mind, they became a small mantra that helped me refuse to become a shadow of myself. At least for today.

Gluten free: Day 1

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Today was more positive than I thought it would be. I typically have frosted mini wheats for breakfast because they’re filling, not bad on the sugar to protein ratio, and they help keep me regular. But, of course, I can’t have those. (Also, I was out.) I had oatmeal on hand, so I had that and coffee. During breakfast, I browsed my Whole Foods and Epicurious apps for gluten free recipes. I was happy to find a couple of bread recipes that look easy enough. Lately, Mike and I had been talking about making our own bread anyway. The bread we’ve been using just seems to have so many extras in it when compared with bakery bread. I think the drawback could be the insane amount of money it seems to cost for small bags of different grain flours. But perhaps the cost would even out after making my own. As far as making sandwich wraps, I typically kinda hate cold tortilla style wraps.

Shopping gluten free

I feel pretty fortunate that my local grocery store has a somewhat decent crunchy, organic section. I decided to check it out to see what I could stock up on. I was a little dismayed to see just how few things in that section were gluten free. Fortunately, I was able to grab some brown rice pasta and cereal. I was also able to snag some things to try that were dotted throughout the store: a thai rice noodle bowl; “granola” bars made of fruit, seeds, and almonds; chicken meatballs for pasta. I also grabbed some things to make shepherd’s pie. I was pleasantly surprised to find that our grocery bill wasn’t exhorbitant, although I was only grabbing food for a couple of days. And since this was the first time I was shopping for gluten free food, the shopping trip took longer than normal. If it didn’t specifically say gluten free on the packaging, I had to stand there in the aisle reading the list of ingredients and compare it with a list of okay ingredients I found online.

Lunch

I was trying to make my life easy for lunch, so I grabbed one of these for lunch.
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I paired it with a small salad from the salad bar at the store and my favorite homemade honey mustard dressing. I have to say, I was a little less than enthused to eat the bowl once I opened it.
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Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains
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Dried “vegetables”
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Is that sauce or poo?

Fortunately, it tasted better than it looked. It was a bit too spicy for me, even after I picked out the dried peppers and didn’t use the entire sauce packet. Clearly, I’ll need to make this from scratch. I was pleasantly surprised at how full I felt after a meatless meal.

As the day wore on, I was hungry, but not like I usually am. I’m hypoglycemic, so I’m used to needing protein and being hungry all the time. The worst is when the hunger feels like it’s practically choking me and a hole is burning through my belly button straight to my back. Or when my sugar suddenly plummets and my body starts feeling shaky and panicky. So, while I felt hungry from time to time, I didn’t feel like I needed to shove the nearest snack into my face in a fit of mad desperation. I picked up some non granola granola bars with almonds, seeds, and dried fruit. They’re surprisingly good, but small and expensive. It did a pretty good job of filling me up. (The distraction of finishing preparing for the Daisy meeting helped, too.)

By dinner time, I was in a tremendous amount of pain and had to have afternoon coffee just to make it through the fatigue. I’m sure the stress of preparing for the Girl Scout meeting, which included gluing pictures of Sally Ride and Benazir Bhutto, while shoveling pulled pork into my mouth didn’t help. By the time I got home and finished getting the girls into bed, I was in some of the worst pain I’ve been in in awhile. I had a really hard time falling asleep, but sooner or later I fell asleep to the sound of The Daily Show, and my first gluten free day came to a close.

The gluten free experiment begins

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I’m a little skeptical of elimination diets. Sometimes it seems that going gluten free is more of a fad panacea.
I have a broken arm.
Have you tried going gluten free?

But I have to admit that I’ve known enough people for whom going gluten free has worked or helped to alleviate symptoms. This seems to be particularly true in the fibromyalgia community. So I thought I’d give it a try. I figure I’ll at least be able to say that I tried it, and the worst that can happen is that it doesn’t work. (Or maybe that it does, and I’ll have to get used funny tasting baked goods.)

I’m planning on trying this for two weeks. I’ll blog about each day, but they are remaining in draft form, (including this one) until after the experiment is finished. I’d rather not have several well-meaning people letting me know what I should or shouldn’t do, or telling me how I’m doing it wrong. I think that would just make me throw my hands up in the air, scream that it’s too hard, and send me running to the nearest cupcake.

I’m tired of reading Rachel Held Evans’ blog

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A few years ago, a friend linked to a blog post by Rachel Held Evans. I don’t remember what the specific post was about, but I remember it being insightful, funny, wise, and ballsy. After that, I read her book, Evolving in Monkey Town, (which has been re-released under the title, Faith Unravelled). It was like she had written the story of my own evangelical upbringing.

From that point, I became a faithful reader of her blog. I learned things about biblical history, became exposed to other religious writers and thinkers, and was forced to finally look up what hermeneutic means. It was also the place where I was introduced to the likes of Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Al Mohler, Denny Burk. (If you don’t know who these people are, don’t look them up. Your blood pressure will thank you.) I rediscovered the culture of patriarchy from which I had fled so long ago. I confirmed that the socio-political culture that has become evangelicalism wasn’t just all in my head.

The four stages
For a long time, I read all the posts in which she (rightly) called out the giants, the bullshit, and the douche-baggery of evangelical subculture with vim. They were followed by shock and anger because: 1) I couldn’t believe that the things she was posting about were actually done/said; 2) I could believe that the things she was posting about were actually done/said; 3) Controversial posts almost always led to people, (usually men) trying to silence her in the comments or responsive blog posts. Words were used to attempt to beat her into submission, whether they were passages from a selective interpretation of Scripture, “feminist” used as a derogatory term, or an ultimate flipping over of the game board by declaring that she “hates the Bible” when nothing else seemed to stick.

But now, my reaction is a bit different. I’ll call them the four stages of reading Rachel Held Evans.
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1) Fatigue, otherwise entitled, What the actual fuck have they done now?
I’ll be honest and say that lately, I’ve skipped reading some of Rachel’s posts. It’s not that I don’t care for what she has to say or am annoyed by Rachel herself. It’s because I am fatigued by the frequency and predictability of evangelical culture’s bullshit. Once again, Mark Driscoll has said something misogynist or homophobic. Once again, conservatives are trying to put women in their place, as God clearly intended. Once again, Christians trying to shed light on the ugliness of abuse within the church are told to remain quiet for the sake of unity.

2) The Re-return
Like the episode of How I Met Your Mother, this stage may also leave you vomiting on Robin Scherbatsky’s custom door mat. In stage 1, you skip Rachel’s post. In this stage, you go back, click on the link, and start reading. By the second sentence, you’re already exhausted by the subject matter, so you close it. Finally, you go back and read it like you knew you would eventually. In this case, it’s the post from yesterday, Patriarchy and Abusive Churches. You are bothered by what Rachel has written, that abuse has become such a problem within the church. Or, rather, that it has always been a problem and we know more about it now because of technology. You agree with her premise, that patriarchy is an underlying cause of the abuse problem within the church. You’re glad that you have read the post.

3) Incredulity
If you’re like me, you’re an idiot. And what do idiots do? They read the comments and Twitter responses. At first, comments range from praise and encouragement to constructive criticism. But then they quickly devolve into general, off topic nonsense, lobbing clobber passages, and attempts to silence and discredit Rachel by calling her names and saying that she hates the Bible. At first you have to laugh. It’s just so predictable. It’s almost as if these people have a cabinet with a set of pre-packaged responses. I imagine an alarm sounding each time Rachel posts, and these people drooling as they peruse the options. You laugh because, if you don’t, it’s just sad. And you keep laughing until….

Rage!
Much like Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief, it is also possible to experience this stage concurrently with fatigue and incredulity. It’s the stage that takes you from saying $!?@%# to only having the time and energy to quickly shout just the beginnings of all the curse words to just roar-screaming at your computer. It leaves you feeling exhausted and powerless.

And we’ve come full circle
Rage dumps you in a rainy gutter, weak and ready to walk away from it all.

You’re tired of the fact that such abuse exists. You’re tired of the fact that Rachel has to write yet another post on patriarchy because there are people who would rather cling to that power structure than to the love of Jesus which makes us all equal and sets us free. You’re tired of Bible passages being cherry picked and used as bombs in culture wars. You’re tired of the fact that any of these people who espouse such ideas actually matter and have influence over anyone. You’re tired of the fact that whenever a thoughtful, brilliant, and sharp woman like Rachel writes blog posts that call out patriarchy, (mostly) men will inevitably try to silence her and put her in her “place”. I’m tired of the fact that Rachel has to repeatedly write about such things in the year 2014.

And then, a few days pass and…
Ooo, Rachel’s posted something new! Click.

Black bean brownies

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It was awhile ago that a friend of mine suggested that I try making black bean brownies and compare them to regular brownies. She said that they supposedly tasted just like regular brownies. I adore brownies so, naturally, my initial reaction was…

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But I finally gave them a try yesterday. I was surprised to discover that I had all the necessary ingredients on hand. While they certainly were more involved than opening a box and stirring in oil and eggs, they were simple and came together fairly quickly.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups black beans, (15 oz can) drained and rinsed very well
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup or agave
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup chocolate chips, plus more to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients except chips in a food processor. Blend until completely smooth and large pieces of bean skin are not visible. Stir in the chips, then pour into a 8×8 pan coated with non-stick cooking spray. Bake 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Let cool at least 15 minutes before trying to cut.

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The verdict
I discovered that you really do need to let the brownies mostly cool before trying to cut into them, otherwise they just fall apart. Once cooled, the consistency is much like a piece of fudge. The texture is mostly smooth, but slightly gritty. Overall, the taste was chocolately, with a hint of oatmeal aftertaste. You can tell that something is a little off, but you don’t care because they’re rich and delicious.

The nice things about these brownies is that they’re kid approved. Rachael and a friend tasted them after school and loved them. Rachael declared that I make the best brownies. It was only after they had eaten them did I reveal that they were made with black beans. Rachael was even able to be bribed to get out of bed this morning if i sent one with her lunch today. So I would say that these are an excellent way to sneak fiber and protein into your kid’s diets.

In the end, I think these are a great way to satisfy a snack craving. They’re yummy and it would be difficult to guess that they’re made with black beans. But do they taste just like brownies? No. Anyone hoping for a cakey or chewy, dense brownies will not find it in these. However, I would absolutely make these again.

Query: are they still healthy if you eat half the tray in one afternoon? Asking for a friend.

Recipe via Chocolate Covered Katie

It’s So Much More

Not only this, but when I tell people I have fibromyalgia, they look back at me blankly. So many people don’t even know what this syndrome is. And the people that do know what it is sometimes have to remind themselves that I’m not the same person they once knew.