Confession: I love higher education. I love the drive for discovery and explanation, the push for more people to know more about the way more things work or don’t work. That may be why I worked for four universities. I earned degrees from three of them, although I didn’t mix work with education.
I have a Masters of Health Sciences in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Florida. Now, before you excoriate me for procuring parchment from your alma mater’s arch rival, know that I went for the education, not the sports. I own nothing with a Gator on it. I spent college football season cursing the early-arriving tailgaters for hogging so much pavement I couldn’t get out of the parking lot and go home on Friday afternoons. A classmate of mine who used a chair–and competed in the 1996 Paralympics in women’s basketball–once called campus police because an RV not only illegally sprawled across three handicapped parking spaces, it also usurped the striped space next to her car, which was legally parked in the fourth handicapped space, so she couldn’t get into her car. Continue reading The Right to Reproduce
Ah, family. It’s the unit that nothing trumps in importance. It’s the unit into which you didn’t choose to be born but to which you always are connected. It’s the unit that’s thicker than water (its blood, anyway), the unit that measures success in terms of what it’s done for you and failure in terms of what you haven’t done for it. It’s the unit source of the genetic weaknesses causing your chronic illnesses (including celiac disease) and the genetic code for why you have/don’t have a widow’s peak or a hitchhiker’s thumb or blue eyes and red hair. It’s also the unit that psychologists use to explain who you are and how difficult it will be to fix you.
I love my family. My family is awesome, especially my Dad, who for decades has suffered the burden of being Henry Winkler’s doppelganger. Back in the seventies, people would chase Dad through the airport, convinced he really was the Fonz and just didn’t want to sign autographs. Three decades later people still come up to him and ask him if he knows he “looks exactly like the Fonz!” Continue reading Ten Lessons Sans Carols: #3 The Family Fonz
Schools down here held their last day of classes before the Christmas break on Friday, December 19th. They didn’t reopen until Tuesday of this week. How awesome is that for a winter break? When I was in school, we went until the day before the night before Christmas and we returned on January 2nd, unless the day of the week on which those dates fell gave you a proximal weekend to boot. That made for double depression on New Year’s Day: the holidays are over and we have to go back to school tomorrow. Ugh. No wonder I cried in my closet. I am so glad kids have it better today. Continue reading Ten Lessons Sans Carols: #6 Cool Coat and Cross-Contamination
I’ve been gluten free for five years now and it’s greatly improved my health. I became alcohol free (AF) nearly three years ago and that also has improved my health…and saved my life. Alcohol’s a deadly chemical for me, far more deadly than gluten, so consuming any amount of it is akin to jumping out the window of a tall building into a mound of ravenous fire ants. If the fall doesn’t kill me, the ants will, and the dying process will be excruciating for me and my loved ones. By the way, alcohol totally aggravates dermatitis herpetiformis, the skin rash some of us with celiac are extra winners to have. It won’t bring on an outbreak, but if you have an outbreak, it will itch more and spread more and bleed and scar more. My poor legs and arms bear witness to this. Once I went alcohol free, the outbreaks were much less severe in intensity and in damage.
Two weeks before Christmas, Crate and Barrel put all their holiday food fare on sale with free shipping. At 30-50% off and delivered to me for free, I settled down for some serious online shopping. I immediately snapped up seven adorable boxes of chocolates shaped like mice to give as gifts. I’m glad I did because everyone who received a box squeaked with delight at both the cuteness and the yumminess, although my cousin’s son wanted to know if she had any more chocolate rats after scarfing half the box. No? Rats. Continue reading Ten Lessons Sans Carols: #7 Glögg Glug Gluten Free Good (With Frogs)
This year I served as president of my neighborhood association. I live in a small townhouse enclave, a place where people were so offended by the county’s pilot once-a-week trash pickup program, they protested by leaving in the street for days the heavy-duty 40-gallon rolling trash cans the county gave everyone as thanks for being part of the pilot. This is the same place where people regularly violate the legal covenants about parking and property upkeep, complain about and report their neighbors’ violations, and then refuse to pay the fines for violating the covenants themselves.
I didn’t start the year on the board. In fact, I declined a nomination at the annual meeting last November. When the president quit the thankless position this past April, I agreed to join the board after a hard press from two members. Our first order of business was the county trash pilot program, for which we were blamed despite everyone receiving from the county informational packets explaining what/when/why/who/where. The second board president quit at the end of July, along with two other board members and the remaining two board members pushed me to assume the presidency. I reluctantly agreed. Continue reading Ten Lessons Sans Carols: #9 The Gift That Keeps On Giving–No
Happy New Year! I hope 2015 is off to a lovely start for you. It is for me, in a low-key sort of way.
I really enjoyed the holidays this year, even though the clock rapidly ticked on no repeat, big band swing time from dawn of Day of the Dead through dusk of Happy New Year. The calendar showed twenty-seven boxed days between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Seemed like ample time for shopping and cooking and celebrating and wrapping and attending and laughing and cleaning and serving and watching and resting and giving, but standing here on the other side of January 1, I can’t help but wonder why the boxes couldn’t contain the holly jolly season for a little longer.
So much happens during Advent, even when nothing is happening: just standing in a long line to pay for grabbed gifts sent ten minutes sailing by on a tide of classic Christmas muzak. Perusing the wares of just three stores devoured an entire Saturday, leaving only three more for cookie baking and party throwing. Mondays felt like Fridays as the seasonal warm fuzzies blurred one day into the next. Half the workdays got swallowed by online holiday bargain shopping and the rest were eaten at this or that holiday luncheon, reception, open house, dinner party, or cookie swap.
I loved it all. There’s not a bit of complaint here; rather, I’m brimming still with gratitude and joy. The only negative feeling, if you could call it that, is a touch of sadness that it’s all over until next November. To retain some of the special glow of the holiday season, and to maintain my gratitude, I made a list of ten holiday activities or occurrences that inspired personal growth as well as joy. It’s warming me while the Arctic chill pushes further and further into our neck of the suburban Atlanta woods.
Writing the details for each item list is taking longer than I thought it would because I have to jump up every twenty minutes to let the office assistants in and then out and then in and then out again and then feed them and then let them out and then in…and then out and then in. It’s what happens when he feline desire for adventure battles with the feline love of warmth. Go out the front door and then break a personal best record to race across three front lawns, a side lawn and three backyards to get to the back door: seventeen seconds! The Feline Winter Games are on!
And now, here is the first of Ten Lessons Sans Carols: Continue reading Holiday Lessons Sans Carols: #10 It Takes A Village
Good hair is work. That’s especially true for the gluten free.
Before my celiac diagnosis, my hair and skin misbehaved. An said immune system and damaged gut from said autoimmune disease meant nutritional deficiencies and nutritional deficiencies meant deficient hair and skin. Hair color never looked the way either the box or the hair stylist predicted and it quickly would degrade to an awful harsh orange no matter how brown or red or blond it was supposed to be. The only time the color looked good was on Halloween, when orange was the hot, haute hue.
My face favored tomato tones rather than pumpkin or pinks. Instead of glowing with a healthy hint of blush, it burned rough red. Painful breakouts hopscotched over dry, itchy patches. No matter what I did or didn’t put on my skin, my face looked angry and sickly.
These days, my skin and hair look much better, thanks to some fabulous gluten free products. (Disclosure: I don’t get paid by the brands mentioned in this post, nor do I get a discount or other promotional consideration. This post comes straight from my heart and my head).
I used to pay $200 to get poisoned, er, my hair cut, colored, and coiffed at salons that understood nothing about gluten and gluten free. I’d ask about ingredients and I’d explain about my need to avoid gluten for medical reasons. The responses ranged from confusion to defensiveness. Continue reading Hair Raising
Sometime between eight-thirty and nine Thursday night I burrowed under the flannel sheets and red comforter and turned out the light. Maybe a minute later, Jax whomped on top of me and curled himself into a tidy ball on half of my rib cage.
Now that it’s gotten cold, the cats have gotten friendlier. During the summer they stay as far away as possible from a warm body like me, preferring to snooze flat on their backs in any place with a good breeze. Over the past week, however, on the trail of the Polar vortex pushing wintery temps way down South, the cats have morphed into heat seeking missiles. Continue reading The Ungodly Hour Feline Frenzy
When I received the diagnoses of celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis, I already had a self-concept Jerry-rigged so the bent Person With Chronic Incurable Illness identity sprang from the conventional High Achiever boxed self taped to the scaffolding of People-Pleasing-Worryer and criss-crossed with labels like Short White Yankee Gone South. Here was yet another aspect of me that needed labeling, another imperative to redefine myself.
Anyone with celiac disease has a multitude of labels and identities to choose from. I could emphasize the food aspect and self-identify as GF or gluten free. I could focus on the autoimmune aspects of the disease and say I’m multiply autoimmune impaired in a nod to all the ways my body attacks itself: fibromyalgia, asthma, celiac disease, Raynaud’s, etc.. I simply could be a celiac but this one makes no sense to me. The disease is celiac disease. How can someone who has it be it? This one also irks me because it highlights how society likes to use a single label to define all the parts of you, as if having celiac disease explains everything about you, from heart to soul to bones to skin. Continue reading Putting Your Health Stats In Your Pocket