Some Brief Reflections on Going Gluten-Free For a Weekend

As the sun set on the biggest day in motorsports, with a stomach full of all gluten-free food and plenty of Ace and Angry Orchard hard cider, I smoked the day’s last cigar and wound down for the day, completely satisfied that I had accomplished my major project for the weekend: going gluten-free for a couple of days.

Of course, it’s not because I had to. I don’t know yet whether or not I am gluten reactive, though I still think there’s a high probability that I am for reasons mentioned prior. Rather, I did it because it was because I wanted to. I wanted to experience the struggle first-hand, as sort of a sympathy/empathy thing for those who have to fight this battle every day. I wanted to learn about what all has gluten and what doesn’t, and just how careful gluten reactive people have to be day to day. I wanted everyone at my viewing party to feel fully accommodated so that nothing was off-limits. And…there might have also been some other ulterior motives for this personal project. 😉

At any rate, I was shocked by two things – not only how much stuff actually is gluten free, but how much stuff is NOT that one would think is. In looking at getting hamburger patties, my jaw hit the floor when I saw that the lesser priced ones actually had soy flour in them! Like what the actual fuck? Why does that shit even need to be in a hamburger patty? Needless to say I quickly rejected those and paid the premium for the “real thing” – the real thing probably tastes better anyway.

So after figuring out what all I could and could not have, it was a huge learning experience to say the least, not only about the logistics, but some about how I personally felt this weekend. For reasons I cannot explain, I did feel like I had more energy this weekend than I had in a long time. Maybe it has something to do with the fact I did eat gluten free this weekend, maybe it was some other factor. I don’t know and I’m not going to make a call one way or another.

Lastly, I also figured out just how flavorful gluten free food can be. I actually found out that I prefer the taste of a gluten free hamburger bun over a plain white bun, especially after toasting it (though I should say I absolutely despise the taste of plain white bread). Gluten free barbecue sauce? I couldn’t tell the difference. Of course, base spices, etc. are also great and dress up just about any food, and everything in the end came out just fine.

I guess at the end of the day, I proved to myself that if I do wind up having to be gluten-free, it is something I can do. There are as many different varietals of hard cider out there as there are beer, of course I already love wine and rum. I could still have sushi, minus wasabi and imitation “crab”and with gluten-free soy sauce (yes, there is such a thing!). Who knows? Maybe even sorghum beer is better than it used to be, and I forget what it’s called by a prominent bagpipe maker who is also a homebrewer has to be gluten-free and brews his own beer with normal barley malt and adds an enzyme that removes the gluten. Maybe I could try my hand at homebrewing and still have my beer and drink it too?

Of course, I can’t go completely gluten free yet. I need to wait until the test because I’ll need to continue consuming gluten at least intermittently to keep the antibodies up to show in the test (assuming I do have such antibodies). Alas, nothing says I can’t experiment with doing so on a part-time basis in the immediate future, and I plan to do just that.

I guess whatever happens, does. So be it.

 

Advertisements

A Sunday for the Record Books

First things first, a big, hearty congratulations to Simon Pagenaud, champion of the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500. He qualified pole and brought it home in a very exciting fashion. He earned it heartily and I tip my hat to him.

Second, wow, what a Sunday. Laina and her best friend since grade school graced us with their presence for a totally gluten-free cookout and an outdoor viewing of the greatest race on earth. We had fun, a ton of fun, great food (it’s amazing at how great GF food can be!), hard cider. It was a total blast – it’s always fun watching racing with her; virtually is fun but in person is so much more fun.

Anyway, as much fun as that was, I did have one major ulterior motive for bringing her out here, one which she gladly obliged. As an owner of multiple small businesses in the past, I really wanted her here when I had “the talk” with my family so she could offer her perspective on my next major life transition. I had a feeling they’d listen to her better than they would me. Whereas I’d been dropping not-so-subtle hints and references all day, the time came after the race and after dinner to have the talk.

We excused ourselves to my bedroom for some “private conversation” in which we discussed how I should approach the topic (and maybe a few other things). We emerged from my bedroom, sat down side-by-side, holding hands, and I started the comversation.

I can honestly say my parents saw it coming. They could see it in me months ago. They knew what was I was about to say as though I had already said it, but much to my surprise they seem very supportive since 1) I have a plan of action in the works and 2) I’m not going into this blind. They know this is something I *WANT* to do. This time, I won’t be moving because I have to, but because I want to. There’s a totally different vibe to that when one’s heart is actually in it. Cranes aren’t my passion. My passions lie elsewhere.

Of course Laina offered her perspective from having done this herself, to help put out some of the fires that I knew would start during this conversation. This is why I wanted her with me when I had this talk so she could help me put these out, which she was a very effective firefighter through it all.

Being a “corporate slave” (my mom balked at the term but that’s what it feels like to me) is a toxic environment for those of us on the autism spectrum. It just is. If I keep doing what I’m doing now for the next 10+ years I’m going to go insane. That’s just a fact. I’m too “different” and free-spirited to do be just a slave surveillance (insert loud, raucous “throat monster” here) I mean social security number drawing a paycheck for doing mind-numbing tasks day in and day out with people I absolutely despise.

Needless to say I feel better – much better – now that everything is out in the open and I have my family’s blessing in this endeavor. I’m sure they’ll miss me, as well as my Abilene friends when I do take that step to “go home” and start putting my plan into action, but I’m sure they’d rather see me happy, even if someone else, than cooped up in hillbilly hell (which is exactly what Abilene is) doing corporate work for the rest of my life.

All in all, a great day. One of the best in recent memory for me. I can sleep more easily at night now with everything out in the open and knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel and a very real future for me in which I can not only survive, but thrive. It’s a totally different feeling for sure, and a total relief.

Thanks again, Laina. Couldn’t have done it without you. Really. I am in your debt.

The “G” Word…

…and I don’t mean “gay” either. I mean another one, and one that might be the mystery as to why I am totally unresponsive to antidepressant medication despite fitting the description of clinical depression. A word that is, in the eyes of many alternative/naturopathic medicine practitioners as well as some MDs, “the root of much evil.” A word that almost took away the budding opportunity in front of me.

Gluten.

Given my medical history, a more than casual correlation between neurodivergence and gluten reactivity, and certain parallels I’ve drawn in a story similar to mine, here I am faced with a painful reality. I now realize there is a very real possibility that I am gluten reactive. Of course it’s not a certainty and won’t be unless I have a full diagnostic performed, but given my family history of autoimmune disease (my biological father having been diagnosed as Grave’s but possibly was something else, and my mother having some unknown but definite autoimmune disease) and what presents as clinical depression in myself, there is a consistency there that is impossible to overlook.

Obviously this is a real shakeup of my life story and one I had never considered before as I have absolutely no GI-related symptoms with consuming gluten (though maybe my chronic piles are aggravated by it?) and I obviously do consume a fair amount.

Which brings me to why I am just down in the dumps about it all and I’ve been crying sporadically throughout the day. You know I LOOOOOOVE beer and whisk(e)y. Beer is obvious as gluten is found in abundance in barley, wheat and oats (the first of which is a common ingredient in all beer and the latter two in many styles of beer), and though distilled, whisk(e)y is debatable and there is no consensus as to whether or not it contains gluten. I also love artisan pizza, especially from a local place here in Abilene.

As such, facing the possibility of being gluten reactive depresses the shit out of me. If it turns out I am gluten reactive, all of the above has to go away, lest I face a future where I have no quality of life and suicide/euthanasia would definitely be preferable. As depressing as the thought of having to go gluten free is, the alternative is even scarier and more depressing – loss of motor function, coordination, life bound to a wheelchair. I definitely don’t want to go there.

Given this information, I’ve decided I have no choice. I have to be screened for gluten reactivity. I have to know so I don’t inadvertently fuck myself up 10-20 years from now.

So why now, of all times? Well I’m now at a point where I am receptive to making changes if I have to. Up until now my thinking on these matters (including not only gluten but getting trashed every night, diabetes, etc.) was the same – I’m unwilling to change and give up enjoyment (read: escape from pain) in exchange for better health. My attitude was “if it kills me then so be it.” You know, the same excuse heavy cigarette smokers use to justify refusing to attempt to quit (I know I sound like a hypocrite using that analogy but cigars are indeed different in how the tobacco is cured and the product is made and consumed).

So am I or aren’t I gluten reactive? For now that remains an unknown and will until I can put the immediate fires that are in front of me out because god(dess) knows that will start a whole other set of fires. I’m already finding out what a major pain in the ass being gluten free is as I am having to prepare a gluten free feast for my Indianapolis 500 viewing party Sunday to accommodate two gluten reactive guests. It won’t kill me not to have gluten after all so I’m totally accommodating.

Alas, I guess I’ll cross that bridge if it is in my path. I just don’t know how I’ll deal. There will be a years-long grieving process if I have to cut gluten, but I know it won’t be the end of the world. Plus I have the best support system I could ask for if it does transpire that I have to.

In the meantime, I’ll just do some pre-grieving so maybe I’ll have less of that to do later, so excuse me while I go cry some more.

A Look Back at Three Years of Blogging

So this popped up at 11:00 PM or so give or take last night. Has it already been three years of blogging? In the words of the great Roland Orzabal, “funny how…tiiiiiiiiiime fliiiiiiiiiies…”

Anyway, I have to say it’s been a wild ride since I started this blog three years ago. I honestly had little expectation other than this place being a personal diary of sorts and little or nothing else. I thought I might get a comment here and there but I wasn’t anticipating any real interaction or networking.

Well, I have to say I got way more than what I bargained for. Sure, I’ve had my share of PR nightmares, a couple of trolls (here’s looking at a certain assistant professor of biostatistics and a little local troll who I have an idea might be but I’ve not proven his/her identity yet) and this blog has gone through tough times along the way, but man has it been a crazy ride.

Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without my early followers. Rachel at Illuminated Literation, KirstWrites, Helen at SLS, Angie at King Ben’s Grandma, among others come to mind straight away. I love you all to pieces, especially for sticking by me during the major PR nightmare.

My blog is as much for you all as it is for me, for without you none of this would have been possible. I hope you’ve learned something about tattoo culture, life on the spectrum, or any of the products I regularly review. I know a lot of you seemed to enjoy my terrible singing when I posted it, for reasons I don’t yet understand (oh man, I know someone is about to say something about what I just said!).

Anyway, that’s all great, but I can’t write this post and not make a special shout out to a special someone. Someone who I crossed paths with for the first time in December 2016, right in the middle of the shitstorm. Though she was on the opposite side of the argument, she took up for me. We must have annoyed the shit out of each other at times, but she stuck by me through it all. Though we didn’t agree, we had our commonalities and developed a deep friendship straight away.

Little did I know at the time I had just found my long-lost (non-blood related) twin sister. The writing was on the wall, but the recent events are the pudding and the proof is in the pudding. It was more than just placing two cats in a loving and deserving home (one of which we are convinced really was just going back home in a new body). It’s about finding the right person to show me my true value, regardless of what the world of the FAA might think. It’s the special bond we share that goes beyond the comprehension of even myself sometimes.

Never in a million years did I think anything like this would come of my blog, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Why else would I be looking at dropping everything leaving the place I’ve lived since 1999 (with only short breaks in between), not just to pursue self employment, but to be able to hang out whenever we want?

Thank you, Laina. Thank you for everything and more. Words cannot express how truly grateful I am. I don’t know how I could possibly repay you in this life.

Just…thanks.

PS: My left shoulder is still a bit sore. ;-P Damn you!!! (LOL J/K!!!)

Today’s Humor Has Been Brought to You By the “Throat Monster”

So my neuro-sister and twin soul Laina and I have been having a really snotty morning to say the least. Don’t believe me? Check out a snippet of our back and forth:

Yeah, the “Throat Monster” has been kicking both of our asses this morning. Anyway, it reminded me of this, which I just had to share. I guess there is someone for everyone after all.

Hope it brightens someone’s day who needs it.

Cigar Review: Epicure Short Salomone

This 6″ x 54RG “Salomone” (seriously – how many fucking spellings are there of this shape?) vitola from Crux Cigars features an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and long fillers.

Using one snip with my Colibri V cutter, the first light revealed a perfect draw producing plentiful medium-bodied smoke. Dry, heavy wood dominates the flavor with a tinge of black pepper on the retrohale.

Getting into the first third we see more of the same, but with the addition of a dried roasted nuts and the pepper backing down. The body settles into a mild/medium and a slightly sweet cream enters the mix.

Getting into the second third we see a very welcome transition as the woody notes take a back seat and are replaced by a tinge of vanilla. I also detect a fleeting hint of cocoa, mainly on the finish and retrohale. Everything is smooth and well blended. Only subtle changes toward the final third as the cocoa is now on the draw also and the vanilla takes on a hint of a spicy note. The body also ramps up slightly again, wavering between mild/medium and straight medium. Ending at 1 hour 5 minutes for a truly impressive burn time for a Connecticut and bringing in a subtle nicotine strength.

Flawless construction featuring a razor-sharp burn and the ash holding on for solid third chunks at a time. The band slid off easily without damaging the delicate Connecticut wrapper.

This is one of those few Connecticut cigars I actually enjoyed. A great morning smoke, it went beautifully with a Sumatra Mandheling coffee. Rather pricy for a mild stick at $13/pop, but worth it to kick-start an epic day. These will enter rotation for me. Rating: 4.25/5.

The Scratched Out Face…

So it’s been but a day since I’ve had my new tattoo. For those who missed the post, here it is:

img_2070

The question I’ve gotten from a few people is who is that person in the picture frame? Whose face is marked out of that picture? Some have speculated it’s an ex-lover, an ex-friend or something of the sort. Truth be told when Jade first drew it up I didn’t quite know either (note: this was an element in the original concept drawing she did with the hourglass and scroll, but it didn’t fit on my left side). I just knew it spoke to me in some way and asked her to add the element back in for this piece. Well today, in my daily BSing and virtual cuddling with my beloved neuro-sister Laina, I figured it out.

So who is this person? I can’t speak for Jade and her vision in the original drawing. That said, as I’m the one wearing the tattoo, it’s up to me to define, so here’s your answer: that person is *ME*.

Now hold on a second, why would I scratch my own face out? It’s easy really: I’m not the same person I was a few years ago. Hell, I’m not the same person I was two months ago. In that light, the scratched out face represents the old me. The me who dealt with my pain in very unhealthy ways (of which I will not go into detail here). The old me who was judgmental of others. The old me who hated the mere concept of neurodiversity and got so angry with my fellow autism spectrumites who said “I don’t want a cure.” The old me who thought I was sick, broken, and a freak of nature. The old me who thought I was doomed for failure from the day I was born.

In short: the picture represents the me I don’t ever want to revert back to.

I’ll keep that picture as a reminder of where I’ve been and where I don’t want to return. The picture stays there on my desk (or, in this case, in my dermis) reminding me not to look into the past, but to the future instead.

Moving forward is not about forgetting my past. It’s about processing it and moving on from it. It’s about becoming the truly best version of me I can be. Placement wise, it’s almost in direct line with my semicolon – my very first tattoo as a symbol that I’m still here. Whether or not that was a conscious thing for Jade when she stenciled it on I don’t know, but to me it ties that in. After all, my first tattoo is what set all this in motion anyway – launching this blog, which led to me crossing paths with so many of you, and for Laina and I to eventually meet in person. My ink journey started my transformation, but that was only the beginning. My trip to San Antonio at the end of March was a bigger step – being in the presence of the person I now believe is my “twin soul” who helped me realize my own worth as I am.

I’ve still got a lot of work ahead of me, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. Nothing worth it is easy after all, now is it? Alas, this is the start of better things ahead.

And that, my friends, is the story behind the scratched out face.