Monthly Archives: October 2015

More Gluten Free Travel by The Celiac’s Wife

Now that I’m back, I have so many things I want to blog about: places and people we visited and books I’ve read, as well as other randoms thoughts I’ve had lately. Today I only have time to mention once again how difficult it is to travel with someone with severe celiac disease.

We flew into Chicago and drove to Kalamazoo. Because of the length of time that can be involved–especially if a plane is delayed–in going without food and what I learned last time, I packed some cheese and salami and hard-cooked eggs with a frozen ice pack in my carryon. These items, along with gluten free crackers and breads, would sustain hubby as long as necessary. As a precaution, I’d emailed my mother an easy recipe for gluten free chicken and dumplings so she could have a hot meal for us when we got in for a late dinner. She also made homemade applesauce to go with it. The gluten free dessert I packed provided the nightly dessert hubby always craves.

Next day breakfast and lunch were negotiated by reading labels at mom’s house.

My brother was making dinner for us on the grill. He had been planning it for weeks and had asked me several questions by text about what hubby could and could not have. Brother made both trout and salmon and everything was delicious.  Plus, I got to play with my brother’s granddaughter (18 months) and two dogs.

The day after we were off to Toronto and figured it would be easy to find gluten free in a big sophisticated city. Wrong. It was very difficult, but that first night we were able to rely on a standby: PERSIAN FOOD. Or you can call it Iranian food. No matter what you call it, it’s the only truly reliable food. If you’re gluten free you have to avoid the delicious bread and watch for appetizers and other odd dishes that might have gluten slipped into them. And no baklava ever ever ever. But the basic kebabs, koobidehs, and other meats, as well as the rice dishes, are all gluten free. We usually bring our own gluten free salad dressing, just to make sure, but even the salads are usually gluten free.

For the second night, we had problems. We didn’t want to subject our cousin and her friend to the same meal, and we were meeting a second cousin as well. The only restaurant we could find that we felt we could trust was a burger place that made a huge deal of having a zillion gluten free options, etc.  It sounded like the good place we ate at in Victoria. Nope. We discovered that the fries were not made in a dedicated fryer, meaning that they are fried in the same fryer and oil as the BREADED ONION RINGS. We were disappointed because the only side he could have with his burger was a very very spicy cole slaw. Between the spice and the cabbage, that is a disastrous combo for someone with a GI illness.

As an aside, although many people with celiac recover when they switch to a gluten free diet, a minority keep their symptoms because the system is already so damaged. My husband is in the latter group.

So the burger place was disappointing as the only way hubby could get enough food would be if he ordered a 2nd burger, which he was unwilling to do (too much meat, too much food, too much of the same, too much money). And we worried about cross-contamination in a place that didn’t even care to get a 2nd fryer when they advertised so much about their wonderful gluten free menu items. hahaha

After Toronto we drove to New York. We stocked up on cheese and gluten free bread items and managed to get our ice pack frozen, but the drive didn’t offer much else to eat. You can’t really get gluten free food on the road. All along the way, even at Niagara Falls, Tim Hortons was the major food option–buns, doughnuts, and coffee creamer by a company I couldn’t research! Hubby didn’t dare get anything but black coffee there.

Notice the double rainbow: no gluten free yummies at the end

New York City is both the best place and the worst place for a celiac. It’s the best because they actually had some wonderful restaurants for celiacs and the worst because there is such a wealth of wonderful foods (especially ethnic, our favorites) that hubby can’t eat. We found an entirely gluten free Italian restaurant that was very good and quite charming. We also ate in a Persian restaurant the night we saw Something Rotten, a delightful Broadway musical. The food was excellent, and so was Christian Borle in the show! In my daughter’s apartment building, a well-stocked bodega kept me satisfied and offered just enough gluten free salami and cheese for hubby.  But we couldn’t buy food off the carts around the city or eat at museums or stop wherever we liked for a snack.

We drove for 2.5 days after our NYC visit–through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and into Indiana. Breakfast the 2nd day was a bust. We had a free one at Homewood Suites, but literally everything had gluten or could have had gluten. They didn’t have any packages so that we could read labels. Waffles, pre-made omelets, sausages, cereal, you name it: all gluten or potential gluten. Hubby lived off the salami and cheese once again. And potato chips.  I had to grab whatever I could. At one rest stop I grabbed something ahead of an Amish family of 8 slow-deciders. It turned out to be 10 tiny potato wedges and breaded chicken tenders. GREASY. And then I had to carefully wash my hands so I wouldn’t contaminate hubby’s bread and cheese. Very tedious, but we didn’t starve. It just wasn’t fun and was annoying.

So when we drove toward Indianapolis late on the 2nd day of that trip, I tried to find a restaurant with gluten free offerings along a major highway. I used an app on my iPhone. The only one I found was Outback, one we can often rely on, although sometimes you get an employee that puts croutons on the salad and thinks that if he takes them off the salad will be gluten free. NOT. 1/500 of a slice of bread is enough to make a celiac sick.

Outback was literally mobbed, with a half hour wait. I started to get a sinking feeling because I worried about cross-contamination, but what else could we do? I asked hubby if he wanted to find a grocery store instead so we could read labels. But he was sick of cold food out of baggies. Then I used the restroom. What a disaster. I came out and said, “We’re going. You will get so sick here.” If they were that busy, there is no way he was safe.

Once again, I resorted to my iPhone. There was one–and only one–real option less than 2 miles away. As we drove up to it in the dark, we saw how sketchy it was. It was on the “bad side of town,” and the restaurant didn’t look so great inside. Then there was that biker decor–graffiti walls and a big skull. But by then we were starving, or at least thought we were. We decided to go in. As we stood at the counter to order our food, hubby said, “I’ll pay. Will you go look for my pita bread?” We have Middle Eastern Deli & Bakery in Phoenix, and they make gluten free pita bread. Hubby likes to take it everywhere. Out in the dark, I was searching through suitcases with the door open, thinking how dangerous this was. After a little while I heard some scuffling past me, but I had the bread in hand and turned to go in.

The heavily metalled and tattooed young lady who worked the counter was locking the door and yelled at me to come in fast so she could lock up. I scuttled in, wondering what in the world was going on. Hubby sat by the front glass window and I told him something was up and to move back from the window.

A minute later the young lady came out from the back and said to us and the other customers, “We’ve just been robbed. If you don’t want to stay we understand and you can go. If you want to finish eating, that’s fine. We are going to keep the doors locked and are closing up for the night.” She was very rattled and bounced about somewhat manically. We heard other employees in the backroom talking about the gun.

Hubby told me that it was the guy in the hoodie who had come in as I went out to the car. He and hubby had had a small conversation. At the time, hubby didn’t realize he had a gun or was planning to rob the restaurant, of course. In retrospect, the guy could have robbed hubby at that time and he could have robbed me when he came back out.

Everyone else left, but we waited for hubby’s po boy beef over rice and cole slaw (no bread) and my fried oyster po boy (YUUUUUUMMMMM) and ate it all down. I had a big glass of sweet tea, to boot. The police came, but they didn’t even interview us. What would have been the point?

 

 

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Research and prep for writing, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

Back Home

I got home last night from another trip. This one was just as long as the one hubby and I took in August. We flew into Chicago, drove to Kalamazoo, Toronto, New York, Pennsylvania, and finally Indiana, visiting my mother, hubby’s cousin, and our daughter.

Now I need to write “The Definitive Guide to Gluten Free Travel REDUX.” Or at least Part 2.  And pick up my writing-writing. On top of that, I plan to prepare for a poetry reading I’m giving in Redlands, California, on November 8.

But for now I need to unpack and catch up on work. Just glad to be HOME.

 

Saw this cool cardboard dollhouse in an antique mall.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Dolls, Sightseeing & Travel, Vintage American culture

Off Having Fun

Off doing my fun thing . . . .

“The world’s a puzzle; no need to make sense out of it.”

SOCRATES

If you like, you can puzzle over just what my fun thing is. Hahaha.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Blogging, Writing

Crack the Spine Interviews Luanne

Mid-September my story, “Small Solace,” was published in  Crack the Spine Issue 163. Some of you read it at that time and those of you who commented helped get me an interview with the journal, so thank you!

The interview was published today. You can find it here.

A big heartfelt thanks go to the editor, Kerri Farrell Foley!

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Fiction, Interview, Literary Journals, Publishing, Reading, Writing

National Feral Cat Day Rocks

Why is it important that today is National Feral Cat Day? Because cats are our human responsibility since we have been irresponsible in our treatment of cats (and dogs)–and not all cats can live in a home when they have only lived in feral cat colonies.

Alley Cat Allies does amazing work with feral cats. Hubby and I support their work in spirit and with our checkbook.

They are very big into TNR which means trap-neuter-return, a way of saving the lives of feral cats without the cats being allowed to produce generations more in their colonies.

This is what Alley Cat Allies has to say about National Feral Cat Day. If you tweet, look for and tweet #feralcatday!!!

ABOUT NATIONAL FERAL CAT DAY®

Use these facts about National Feral Cat Day®, community cats, and Alley Cat Allies to prepare for interviews and write letters and press releases. Print this poster to use at your events.

National Feral Cat Day® Facts

  • Alley Cat Allies launched National Feral Cat Day® on our 10th anniversary in 2001 to raise awareness about feral (also called community) cats, promote Trap-Neuter-Return, and empower and mobilize the millions of compassionate Americans who care for them.
  • National Feral Cat Day® is observed on October 16 every year.
  • The theme for National Feral Cat Day® 2015 is “The Evolution of the Cat Revolution.”
  • More and more people respond to the call to action and celebrate National Feral Cat Day® each year. Since 2011, more than 1,500 National Feral Cat Day® events have taken place—spreading the word and helping cats all over the country—and even outside of the U.S. with international events. We can’t wait for you to reach even more people with National Feral Cat Day® this year!

Feral Cat Facts

  • Cats have lived alongside humans for more than 10,000 years. They are part of the natural landscape. Feral cats are the same species as pet cats. Feral cats, also called community or outdoor cats, live in groups called colonies and can thrive in every landscape. They are just as healthy as pet cats, but they are not socialized to humans and are therefore unadoptable.
  • Trap-Neuter-Return—a humane approach to managing and caring for community cats—is the only effective method of stabilizing cat colonies. In the last decade, the number of local governments with official policies endorsing TNR has increased tenfold, with hundreds of cities and towns successfully carrying out TNR programs.
  • However, in the majority of cities, cats are still caught and brought to animal pounds and shelters where they are killed. The shelter system is the number one cause of death for cats in the United States. About 70% of cats who enter shelters are killed there, including virtually 100% of feral cats. That’s why it’s so important for people like you to join us for National Feral Cat Day®, and every day, to help change society and create compassionate communities for cats.

Alley Cat Allies Facts

  • Founded in 1990, Alley Cat Allies is celebrating 25 years of protecting cats and is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.
  • Alley Cat Allies is the only national organization dedicated to the protection of cats.
  • Over half a million people nationwide support Alley Cat Allies and champion our mission to protect and improve cats’ lives.

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What Color is My World?

Happy Thanksgiving Day to my Canadian friends! I never learned about your holiday in school, you’ll be less than pleased to know. It wasn’t mentioned even one time. But I do wish you all a lovely holiday and are thankful you are my friends (and relatives-in-law). In-law. What a funny term. I guess it means because of the legal tie of marriage. Nope, not going on that tangent today.

Going on another tangent–or back to last Thursday, maybe. Does the world look the same to you every day? At different times of the day? In different weather?

Maybe it does to some people. I suspect so because I can go for periods when colors and atmosphere seem the same day after day. So there have got to be people who are like this–the same–all the time.

But eventually my mood changes. I get a certain phone call and both light and color shift. Or a cloud slides over the sun and boom I’m in a funk.  The day had been clear primary colors with defined shapes and changes to muddy haze.

Sometimes actual changes in the environment create that shift, but sometimes it’s only how I view it.

After last week’s post about the mountain, I started thinking more about this phenomenon. In part, it was because of the wide variety of emotional response to the mountain photo I posted. Sammy mentioned mood swings because of the changing light. Jill said the photo made her feel lonesome and Adrienne and Andrea felt melancholy (although Andrea saw some hope, too). S.K. noticed that serene and lonely sometimes go hand in hand. Carrie opted for hopeful, while Jean said it was subdued but thoughtful. Jennifer noted the mountains seemed pensive. The photo made Joey sad because she doesn’t like that kind of desert landscape. Dianne and Mary Ann thought the photo image was intriguing. Shel cracked me up by titling it “Seeking Sunshine.” Derrick voted for reflective. Lostandfoundbooks said it is zenlike and hypnotic. It made Rudri feel meditative.  Carol could feel its “silent power” and thought it was inspirational. Merril and Dianne and Robin saw an ancient bird god in the photo, on top of all that. Vivachange77 (affectionately known by me as Viv) thinks the mountains are slumbering and dreaming. Kath saw her happy place! Theresa saw home.

I think my word for that mountain photo would be unsettled. And I hate that feeling. I feel it too often and it’s akin to anxiety, but not the same. Maybe I can just never get used to the southwest or the desert landscape. I crave gently rolling hills, green cornfields, and the woods (oops, a Little Red reference? haha).

I’m starting to wonder if this change of mood that alters my perception of the world around me has an effect on my writing. Does that muddier view deepen or make more complex a poem or story?

What if a writer approaches a piece in several different moods?! Does it makes the story or poem richer or does it dilute it?

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Filed under #AmWriting, Nonfiction, Writing

What Counts as Writing

I went to California for a few days with hubby for work. Not writing work. Survival work.

Life needs to settle down a little, but my schedule seems full for months ahead now. I wish I had more time for writing. I get frustrated about how little time I actually can spare.

On the ride I snapped a few pix of the scenery. I’m always amazed at how entire mountainsides or significant portions can appear dark according to the lighting. They have a damp look although they are actually where the sun is partially blocked. Sometimes they are shadows. They make me feel moody.

While our mountains are kind of small and unadorned–and not beautiful like the Rockies or the Blue Ridge–they are the most interesting landscape around.

When I glanced at my photos I realized that even this mundane view is fuel for my writing and that if I remain aware and observant I am always writing. When a poem seems to write itself it’s because I’ve done my homework by absorbing what’s around me and meditating on it.

For now, I’m curious: how would you describe the mood of this photo?

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, California, Inspiration, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing, Writing goals, Writing prompt

Red in the Words

I decided to leap back into prose by taking a look at the drafts I wrote for the flash nonfiction course I took in July. While I was searching for those in my closet, I ran across a few of my Red Riding Hood books.

As a fictional character, she’s been quite an influence on me and my writing.

But who is she?

There are hundreds of versions of the story and they come from many different countries. Some are old versions from traditional literature and some are contemporary retellings of the tale. Some are children’s stories; some, such as those that spring from the oral tradition, are for the general public; and some, usually feminist or sexualized versions, are for adults.

I’m guessing that most of us are steeped in the European tradition of red hooded cloak, little girl, wolf, grandmother, and woods. We might or might not think of a huntsman. Our Little Red might get a warning from her mother–or she might not. She might get eaten up just before the reader is left with a strong “moral.” She might kill the wolf in a gruesome manner. Or the wolf might run into the woods, never to return. Pinterest is full of images that resonate, so I started collecting them onto a “Red in the Woods” board. I’ve only got 35 pins so far, but there are some beauties. Many of the classic book illustrators have created Little Red art.

Arthur Rackham’s Little Red Riding Hood

Every culture incorporates some of these elements in their little red stories, but the most important part is that a little girl is threatened by a dangerous animal (usually a wolf, but in Asian countries, sometimes a tiger) and either she becomes a victim, is rescued by someone else, or she is victorious over the “bad guy.” The undercurrents involve a girl going out into a threatening world on her own for the first time and the possibility of sexual violation. But those are adult readings, of course.

Sometimes Little Red is a bad ass. Those are the best versions! One of my favorite picture books for children is Ed Young’s Lon PoPo where the Little Red protagonist is a smart, strong oldest sister who outwits the wolf and protects her siblings.

Have you ever seen Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical Into the Woods? In this version, Little Red is definitely a sexual target for the wolf, but the question becomes: is she complicit? Does she  in some way lead on the wolf? Is the red hood to draw attention? (And where does the red garment come from? Not from the girl herself). Or is that an adult male (pervert) reading–a Humbert version of Lolita? Another adult reading is that the red hood is a metaphor for Red’s vagina/clitoris/youpick.

In this clip of the 1991 Broadway show, the lyrics say a lot about our culture’s interpretation. It becomes clear that this version is about the loss of innocence.

In the Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs’ song, the wolf leers at Red.

There are other strange bits and pieces that show up in some Little Red stories. The wolf tricks Red into eating her Granny’s flesh. Red tries to get out of bed with the wolf by telling him she has to go pee. At that point he tells her to pee in the bed, but she says she can’t and he lets her go outside tied to a long rope. Some of these elements that seem vulgar  or creepy have been edited out of the most popular versions published in the last few hundred years. The confusion between wolf and grandmother is still with us, though. And that alone is pretty strange. Dangerous wolf looks like beloved grandmother? Beyond strange.

Is the wolf a perv or is Red a Lolita? Or is that a red herring (sorry)? Is the story really about something else?

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Filed under Books, Characterization, Children's Literature, Fairy Tales, Fiction, History, Inspiration, Writing