You know, you are going along, happily living your life and minding your own business. Then one day, fate decides to have a little bit of fun: BAM- You can’t have gluten! THWACK- there goes dairy! SHAZAAM- eggs are now the devil!
Suddenly, going out to eat is a major traumatic event. Pitch-ins at church are a cause to cry. Family meals are a mine-field. You want to remain as “normal” as possible and you don’t want to cause trouble for anyone. You don’t want to draw attention to yourself. You don’t want to hear, “Oh, goodness! Your life sure does suck now!” or “Just a little bit won’t hurt you. Surely you can just have a small piece.” You resist the urge to say, “Yes it does-and don’t call me Shirley” and most of the time you resist the urge to eat whatever goodie is proffered by the well-meaning friend. But sometimes you don’t. And those times, you pay for it; your husband pays for it; your kids pay for it. Because it turns out that eating even a small, tiny, minuscule taste of the delicious and forbidden treat not only gives you a stomach ache and those other symptoms never to be discussed on the internet, but it also turns you into a stark-raving b$#@* about 24 hours after you eat the glutinous/milky/eggy delicacy.
That’s what happened to me, anyway. I’m convinced that my family thought I was half out of my mind when I came home with the diagnosis, but they completely rallied around me anyway. They have all been supportive in their own way. My husband encourages me to fix the entire family meal GF/DF/EF and eats whatever I fix, however I fix it- never, ever complaining (even if he probably should.) My grandmother always has something that I can eat when I go to her house, and planning the holiday dinners has now become an exercise in creativity for us. My grandpa is constantly quizzing my parents on what items I have found, and trying to find me new and inventive things to eat. My sister-in-law makes some ah-may-zing GF food for me when we are together. My father-in-law goes out of his way to make meals that have components for me, including finding a special bread mix that I continue to use to this day- Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Bread Mix. My mother-in-law makes me birthday brownies. My brothers make fun of me. Its cool- if they didn’t, I would think they didn’t love me anymore! And my mom became gluten intolerant herself. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is! ;)
As we go along, I am learning to be more out-spoken about my needs. And I have found that people don’t mind catering to the issues that I have. Even my brothers are looking out for my welfare. My sister-in-law decided one day that her pregnancy required a trip to the China Buffet. Mom and I were in one car and they were in another. We followed them, not knowing where we were heading, and parked in front of the restaurant. About the time that Mom gets the words, “Can you eat anything here?” out of her mouth, my brother motions for me to roll down my window. I roll it down and he yells, “They’ve got rice! You’ll be fine!” See? He loves me!
Even friends at church have my back. One gal makes a fabulous quinoa salad that normally calls for feta, but when she brings it to a pitch-in she brings a small “Val-friendly” bowl so I can eat it as well. The amazing woman who often brings food for the women’s bible study is always finding gluten-free goodies for me, and hooks me up with peanuts or other fun treats when we go on road trips. Another friend will always make sure that we go somewhere I can easily manipulate the food when we go out to eat as a staff- without me having to utter a word. These are little things that these girls do because that is who they are- but it means so much to me that someone works so hard to make sure I can enjoy whatever activity we are doing.
Allergies be darned, I am such a lucky girl! Nothing warms your heart more than a family member or friend taking it upon themselves to do something special for you to help you feel normal- except maybe your brother yelling, “They’ve got rice…”