I recently purchased Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, and although I am excited to try the chana masala and walnut-kale pesto, I had to try the recipe for gluten-free sandwich bread ASAP. Sandwiches have been one of the most difficult things to give up. I found good recipes for GF naan and GF pizza, so those haven’t been much of a sacrifice, but sandwiches have been a killer.
I said that this wasn’t going to become an exclusively GF blog, and I stand by that. But I have to share today’s semi-victory, because I am just so pleased, AND there are pictures!
Just as Gluten-Free Girl promised, GF baking means you have to let go of expectations. This bread dough is more like pancake batter than the kneadable dough I was used to (it’s the gluten that makes dough stretchy; it’s why you knead dough in the first place).
But! This dough still had yeast, and it still rose. Unfortunately, I had not read the recipe carefully enough, and I let it rise too high before I put it in the oven.
So as the bread baked at 450F, it rose further only to drip down the sides, so it wasn’t quite the high, poofy loaf I was hoping for.
But like many things in life, appearances weren’t everything, for inside, I found…
Since it was made with a combination of flours that included rice, millet, buckwheat, oatmeal, and potato starch, it had a good flavor, and the texture was just like ‘real’ bread! I celebrated by having a slice topped with butter and raw, local honey I got at the farmer’s market.
Maybe this will help put an end to those traumatizing dreams I keep having about accidentally eating gluten. ;-)
This morning I was sitting on my couch, at work, when I looked up at the door to my porch and saw this:
This fuzzy guy (or girl) sat there for about 15-20 minutes, blinking lazily and occasionally closing its eyes. Eventually it stretched and yawned (I’m not overly fond of squirrels but it was SO CUTE) and shifted to get some more sun.
I threw some nuts out onto the deck, but apparently it wanted a nap more than food, because other than watching me warily, it did not respond to the offer at all.
That was my first delightful encounter with nature today, but it was far from the last.
It was a perfect day so I went for a walk in a local nature preserve. There I saw, in the following order (you will have to just trust me because unfortunately I didn’t have a camera on hand):
- two mallard ducks fighting over a female
- a woodchuck climbing a tree, which I didn’t even know they did, but yep, they do. I learned something new today.
- what I later identified as an eastern ribbon snake (I literally prayed that I would see a snake today, because I am a weirdo)
- two deer grazing in a meadow
- a vulture circling
- a great blue heron fishing
- AN ACTUAL BLUEBIRD
I think I might qualify for Disney princess status now.
So, I know it has been too long since I updated this blog, mainly because a lot of personal stuff has been going on that I figure most of you wouldn’t be interested in. Not a lot of brilliant spiritual insights or new tips for INTJs or even any unique thoughts about Age of Ultron. A few things, though: I am going to Colorado in one month, and planning a possible small-scale road trip to geek out at some historic sites in Pennsylvania later this summer, and I may be going to Chicago in a couple weeks, so perhaps there will be photos and stories to share from one or all of these events!
Some personal updates, in case you are actually interested: I started going to a new church that I like very much, I am taking an antidepressant that is doing amazing things for my mood but worsening my insomnia (so some tweaking is needed), and going gluten-free is still working out for me even though I keep having stupid dreams about accidentally eating things with gluten in them. One dream involved a cupcake, another a pretzel, and the most recent one involved a Chicken McNugget, though how I ate one of those accidentally I have no idea.
One reason I hate small talk is that it’s repetitive–and I hate repeating myself. I like my job, but after nearly 7 years, I’m so tired of answering the “so…what do you do?” question. I’ve gotten a lot of different reactions to “I’m a writer,” and have run into people who make some interesting (often wrong) assumptions.
1. All writing is the same.
My “day job” in writing (helping produce e-newsletters) is an odd mix of creative and journalistic techniques.Writing a novel involves creative writing, as does keeping up a blog, plus lots of research. But sometimes I get people asking me if I do, or would consider, technical writing. That’s a whole different ballgame, involves little writing writing, and may require a special degree/additional training and education. People may assume I’m a technical writer because it’s the only type of writing they’ve heard of that actually pays enough to live on. It’s not.
2. Any writer will automatically be BFFs with another writer.
“Oh, you’re a writer! My niece/brother-in-law/cousin’s third wife is a writer too! I should introduce you!”
“Writer” is a very general term for many different types of work. Two people who are “writers” do not have more in common than any other two people on the planet. A person who writes technical manuals for DVD players might not share the same experiences as a person who writes for the sports section of their local newspaper.
It’s also highly likely that the writer is an introvert who will not be pleased to be thrust into an awkward social encounter with a total stranger.
3. All writers are “word nerds” with huge vocabularies, who are really good at Scrabble and crossword puzzles.
Some of them, yes. Not me. I hate Scrabble and crossword puzzles; I suck at them. My vocabulary is average–maybe slightly above-average, at best. And I mostly care about words themselves only insofar as they can be used for conveying stories and ideas, which are of greater importance to me.
4. All writers are sticklers for grammar and spelling, and they are constantly criticizing your speech and your emails with the air of a stern schoolmarm.
This both is and isn’t true in my case. I do sneer at people who regularly confuse their/there/they’re and who write “should of” instead of “should have,” and I get frustrated by frequent misspellings, because what do you think that squiggly red line is for? I admit that I have zero patience for constant, willful ignorance, but that goes far beyond grammar. Still, people make mistakes. I’m not taking a red pen to your emails. I am much more articulate in writing than speaking, so I don’t fault someone for not realizing the proper way to pronounce a word. Aside from the mistakes I mentioned above, and the fact that I would defend the Oxford comma to the death, I am quite ignorant in grammar. I don’t know how to diagram a sentence, or what a dangling participle–or any kind of participle–actually is.
5. Being published = famous.
P.S. Being published also doesn’t = quality. For reference, see: Meyer, Stephenie; James, E.L.; Sparks, Nicholas
6. If you actually make money as a writer, your work is widely accessible and visible.
“Ooh, you’re a writer? Anything I’ve seen?”
“Maybe? I don’t know your life.”
The e-newsletters I help create are for niche targets–specific trade associations, nonprofits, and medical groups, usually. Unless you’re one of their members, it’s unlikely you’ve read what I actually get paid to write. And the portions that I write may get mixed in with the work of other writers at that company, and that’s after it’s been edited and approved by still others. At the end, it’s hard to tell what’s mine.
You might have seen my blog, but it has a few hundred followers, so odds are that you haven’t.
And my novel currently ranks something like #3,562,009 in sales on Amazon, so you probably haven’t read that, either.
7. Writers will either read anything, or only read the most highbrow works.
Much like Albus Dumbledore, I am tired of people always getting me books as gifts, when I would really love to get socks. And just because I like to read, that doesn’t mean I’ll read just anything. At the same time, being a literary-minded person doesn’t mean I have hoity-toity taste. Yes, my favorite novels are Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and Bronte’s Jane Eyre, but I also have Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating and The Disaster Artist, a hilarious book about the making of one of the worst movies ever made. And do you know why I think that Twilight is absolute garbage? Because I’ve read it for myself.
8. Writers are totally willing to divulge any and all details about works in progress.
People are usually joking when they ask “So how does it end?” That’s fine. I might even tell them, if I know they weren’t going to read it anyway. But I hate being asked “what are you working on now?” because if it’s actual paid work, I probably forgot about it the moment it was finished. If it’s for my blog, just read it for your freakin’ self, jeeze. With more creative endeavors, it is actually detrimental for me to tell people much about a work in progress. (Plus, it’s probably fanfiction, and that’s conversational territory I don’t traverse with just anyone.) Creative writing is very personal; asking about a work in progress is not unlike asking a couple for details on how they’re trying to get pregnant.
9. One writer’s technique/system/path to “success” will work for any others.
I’ve already said that different types of writing and writing-based jobs are…well…different. One person’s method is not another’s, even within the same field. It’s almost physically painful when someone asks me for advice on how to get a job in writing (especially working from home), or how to get published. In publishing, I’m about as far from a success story as you can get. I decided to self-publish just because my odds of getting an agent and accepted by a “real” publisher were already slim, so I decided to fumble my way blindly on my own. I’m not pleased with the results, but I’m not sure I’d do it much differently.
As for my current job? I found it on Craigslist. After moving to D.C., intending to work in a non-profit. I worked in the office for a few years, by which point they knew they could trust me to get the work done from home when I moved back to Ohio. Things kind of fell into place, but I’ve never had specific career “goals” or a five-year plan. Absolutely nothing about my post-college life happened “by the book” or in any way that could be deliberately replicated.
10. Writers do nothing but write.
Writing is a major part of who I am, and if that were completely wiped away, God forbid, I wouldn’t know who I was anymore. But it’s not everything about me and what I do. I love books and movies, and some music. I like to travel, and go to museums and festivals and zoos. I like jewelry and cooking and sites of historical significance and makeup and Myers-Briggs and putting together bookshelves. I have even *gasp* gone an entire day without writing anything. (Unless you count email or texts.)
The short version: You may have your own ideas about who writers are and what they do, but you could be wrong.
It’s been more than a month since I adopted a GF lifestyle. Although it can take many months and even years for the body to adjust to such a change, I thought I’d post an update on my progress so far.
There have been some agonizing moments. I miss Chinese food and fried chicken and hearty sandwiches and crusty sourdough bread. Sometimes I sit around hungry because I can’t have the only thing that I’m hungry for. There was a family gathering a few weeks ago where I had nothing to eat but coleslaw (which I don’t even like) because everyone who was in charge of the food either didn’t know or forgot that I was GF now, so I went home crabby and famished. I’m tired of trying to figure out the best way to eat a bunless Five Guys burger, and bitter that I have to pay the same amount for it.
There have been some victories. The other day I made not only the best GF pizza crust I’ve ever had, but possibly the best pizza, full stop, that I’ve ever made. I successfully replicated my mom’s chocolate-cake recipe with a GF all-purpose flour mix that I put together based on Gluten-Free Girl’s mix. The GF pretzels at the nearest grocery store cost twice as much as regular store brand, but they taste better. I made Yorkshire puddings that tasted just like my old gluten recipe.
I’ve had to make unexpected adjustments. I’ve realized I’d been in the habit of feeling crappy because of gluten. I tried a GF naan recipe that was okay but, after eating it, I got inexplicably anxious. I was waiting for the stomachache, for the heartburn, for any other symptoms that would send me in a mad dash to the bathroom–a waiting that had become second nature. When the symptoms didn’t come, my brain didn’t know what to do; I almost psyched myself into a stomachache. I made dragon noodles with brown-rice pasta, expecting to feel discomfort from the spicy, buttery sauce, but all I felt was a burning tongue and a full belly. But that’s another weird thing: I don’t always feel as full anymore after a meal now–and I’m wondering if I have gotten so used to nausea and bloating after a meal that I mistook the feelings for satiety.
And physically? I feel better. I can’t say that I’ve felt less depressed, or more energetic, or that I’ve lost weight. My depression has been less severe, but that could be the change of seasons. I haven’t been sleeping well, but part of that has been daylight savings time. But digestion-wise, yes, there is a noticeable difference. It’s at the point where the prospect of eating a regular sandwich fills me with dread, however sorely I am tempted.
So there’s my update. The short version is that there have been a lot of difficult moments, but I am exploring and sometimes having fun, and it is worth the effort.
It’s been a while since I got furiously worked up over a church sermon, so I guess it was about time. And boy-howdy, did I get worked up.
Just to bring you up to speed, I moved back to my hometown-ish area in NW Ohio in January, and I have since joined a young-adult ministry and small group. In general, this has been a great experience, but since the group is for ages 18-29, I feel quite the old-timer.
A few weeks ago they preached on sex, and I listened to it with the expectation that I wouldn’t get anything out of it. I’ve been single for all of my 29 years, I’ve attended church for most of them, and I have heard a variety of sermons about sex (and read books/articles on the topic) since I was about 15. At this point, I could give the sermons.
I was right–the sermon didn’t present anything new. But that doesn’t mean I had no reaction.
It’s been a whole year since I wrote my two-part ‘series‘ on female sexuality in the Christian church, so this might be considered a sequel, though it’s not specifically about female Christians. (If you want to know more about what God has taught me about sexuality as a single Christian female, check out those links if you haven’t already.)
Firstly, I’m really tired of hearing older, married-with-children men tell me how awesome sex is. Not only am I tired of hearing about the topic from someone who hasn’t had an experience remotely similar to mine, I’m tired of hearing that God intends for all of us Christians to have fantastic, mind-blowing sex after we get married–and all we need to do to achieve that is to avoid having sex before marriage.
None of this means a damn thing for a woman approaching 30,who has struggled with sexual temptation and loneliness all her life, with no relief on the horizon, and zero prospects for a husband.
The church needs to stop using “You’re going to have more awesome sex after you get married” to bribe people into chastity. (“Chastity” meaning both celibacy before marriage and faithful monogamy after marriage.) Maybe this “bribery” method works on some people, but to make it the primary motive is a dangerous distortion of priorities.
The messages, sermons, and discussions need to be about how chastity is important because self-control is a valuable skill/virtue to practice in all areas of our lives, sexual or not. (Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit; marriage and awesome sex are not.)
The messages need to emphasize the importance of obeying God, even if it doesn’t make sense to us or is really difficult. God is worth obeying because He is holy, He is far above us and sees so much further and so much more than we do, and He has given us everything.
Encouraging chastity just by saying, “you should save sex for marriage because the sex will be better that way” only prepares people to think, “If I do what God wants, then God will give me what I want.” God is not a vending machine, nor is He paying you for your chastity in awesome sex. A relationship with God is not about economics. I have been guilty of thinking this way for as long as I can remember, and I am still dealing with severe damage from that mindset and trying to untangle myself from it.
And even if I did find this sort of motivation helpful, it’s complete bullshit.
Sex isn’t automatically better because you waited. There’s a learning curve–two people with different needs and desires and sex drives and energy levels and experiences and schedules won’t necessarily be totally compatible and in-tune right away. Then there are physical problems, such as erectile dysfunction or painful intercourse, that could make even marital sex unsatisfying. People may have psychological problems and issues with intimacy, even if they don’t have a lot of emotional baggage. People may have sexual emotional baggage even if they are technically virgins. It’s not as simple as “save sex for marriage” = “best sex ever.”
And guess what? People who have sex outside of marriage can experience really enjoyable sex. They may not even feel guilty about it! And if you have a person who grew up hearing nothing but “marital sex is the best sex,” only to learn that it’s not necessarily true, how likely are they going to trust what else the church tells them?
Oversimplified bullshit helps no one.
If you hear the message at 18 and you get married when you’re 21, great. You were privileged, and you have it easier in many ways than people who went 10, 20, 30+ years longer without getting married. But the church makes it sound like that will happen to everyone. And that is simply not true.
No one in the church seems willing to discuss the fact that some of us aren’t going to get married. This is truth. It doesn’t matter if the majority of people in the American Christian church these days do get married–there are still people who will remain unmarried all their lives. There are people who will get married, only to become unmarried through divorce or death. In these cases, “wait until marriage” is not an effective motive for chastity and sexual purity.
Hammering on the idea of saving sex for marriage just to have better sex after marriage also can imply that people who did have sex before marriage (which I am not advocating, but it happens) are “damaged goods” even with God’s grace and forgiveness, and that they have ruined their chances of having a fulfilling sex life if they do get married.
Abstinence–and then marriage–do not automatically grant a person spiritual wholeness. I have discussed this issue many times, at great length, with a friend who has pointed out that the church should do more to teach people how they can be healthy and whole, sexual or otherwise, in or out of marriage, instead of emphasizing the finding of a spouse.
Wholeness and satisfaction in all areas of our lives do not hinge on good sex, or obtaining a spouse, or any other human relationship. True wholeness is only found in Christ, and in surrendering our lives to Him.
I’m not great at coming up with practical, real-life actions to take to carry out my ideas. So I don’t have a good to-do list for how to find wholeness in Christ. But I think there’s one thing we need to understand before we can do anything else:
Wholeness can only be achieved with Christ, because any desire we have comes from God in the first place.
In fact, in a 1930 letter to his best friend Arthur Greeves, C.S. Lewis discusses sexual temptation (specifically, masturbation) that arises because of deep longings, and suggests fighting back by “turning my mind to the One, the real object of all desire, which…is what we are really wanting in all wants.”
Whether we know it or not, God is at the core of everything we want: intimacy, physical pleasure, inclusion, fulfillment, purpose.
To invoke Lewis again (in paraphrase this time), nothing on this earth can fully satisfy these desires, because they are not from this earth. If we keep this in mind, if we see God as the source of our desires and consider our temptations as opportunities to call on Him and draw closer to him, then I think we have a better chance of finding wholeness, whatever our relationship status.
I think about envy a lot. Envy–with jealousy and covetousness–is probably the sin I have struggled with the most, for the longest, and which has caused the most damage to my life and character. As far as I can see with my limited human vision, at least. It’s something I have been praying about for years, and there are times when it seems I’ve gotten better, and other times when I’ve gotten worse. Even as my self-awareness in this area has grown, sometimes that makes it feel so much worse when I screw up.
If I spend my time and energy wishing I had something other than what I have–the job, home, possessions, intelligence, relationships, or opportunities of someone else–that not only gets me nothing, but it spoils and wastes what I do have.
I don’t have nothing. I receive my gifts from the same Giver (the Father of lights, as it says in James 1:17) as anyone else. If He wanted, He could give me the same gifts, but He has his reasons for doing or not doing so. Then an analogy came to me, because this was my brain after all.
If I receive a pear, and another person has an orange, I could do nothing with my pear and covet the orange. I could complain about the pear, ignore it while I ask God for an orange, question the existence o pears, long for an orange, resent the pear, and even try to pretend that my pear is actually an orange. In the end, all I will have is a rotten pear, because I wasted it wanting an orange.
Wouldn’t it be better to try to enjoy the pear, and make what use of it I can? I can’t turn it into an orange or do anything else that would change the pear itself. But God could give me an orange if He wanted to. He must know that it is best for me to have the pear, at the time and amount that I have it, and that I will make–or have the potential to make–use of the pear better than someone else, and better than I could have done with a different fruit. Maybe an orange would be worse for me in some way I don’t yet know. Maybe the person who has an orange would not make good use of a pear.
Maybe I’ll never completely understand why I have a pear and not an orange. But envy will steal the time I could have spent enjoying the pear–and it still will not get me an orange.
You ask ‘for what’ God wants you. Isn’t the primary answer that He wants you. … Of course, He may have a special job for you: and the certain job is that of becoming more and more His. ~C.S. Lewis, letter to Mary Van Deusen, 25 March 1954
For the sake of those readers who did not grow up with medical professionals and so are unaccustomed to casual discussion of any and all bodily functions, I will try to avoid too many details. Suffice to say, for almost as long as I can remember, I have had a wide range of digestive problems. After talking to someone with celiac disease over a year ago, I realized that gluten may be a trigger. This seemed to be confirmed when I reduced–but did not eliminate–my consumption of gluten, and saw less frequent symptoms. But I started to have other problems since my gallbladder removal last year, and in recent weeks, I’ve been feeling all kinds of worse.
On Friday, I made some homemade naan, and as I was lying around in low-level but undeniable discomfort, I realized that I needed to follow the advice of the great Ron Swanson:
It was time to admit that my current system wasn’t good enough. I had to make major, whole-ass changes. Starting this past Saturday–Feb. 14, because Valentine’s Day doesn’t suck enough—I became one of “those people” and went fully gluten-free (GF).
I am not happy. I come from a family not only of cooks and bakers, but of skeptics. I haven’t informed my parents (who dine heavily on pizza, pasta, and sandwiches) of this change yet, but I rather expect my dad to dismiss it as just a fad. I have cousins who are already dairy-free for health reasons, so I’ll be throwing another wrench into holiday-dinner plans. I’m visiting a friend in Las Vegas this weekend, and I dread the inconvenience my new lifestyle will cause. I had to nix plans to get Chinese when another friend visits next month, because with all the wheat-containing soy sauce, egg-roll wraps, noodles, fried-food breading, and fortune cookies, I may only be able to eat white rice, green beans, and orange slices–which I can have at home. I will never drink Guinness again (yes, I know they make GF beers, but Guinness is the only beer I’ve ever enjoyed).
Thankfully, I enjoy cooking and baking, I enjoy experimenting, and I enjoy learning about the science behind how things work. So with Internet sources like Gluten-Free-Girl and Gluten-Free Goddess to guide me (not to mention Amazon.com), this might even be fun. I’m not only learning about what this means for my body, but what gluten itself is and how it can be replaced. I feel smarter already.
Right now, though, I’m still in a mourning stage. When it comes to changes, especially ones that seem negative at first, I don’t do well with the part that requires me to make peace and reconcile myself to a new reality–the feelings aspect. I want to fret and fume and whinge about it. But when it’s time to take action, I do a whole lot better. I can problem solve; I can be practical; I can do. In time, my feelings will bow to my actions and my logic, and all will be well.
And no matter how much I b*tch about this, there is something I can’t deny: It’s Day 4 of my GF life, and I already feel better than I have in the last few weeks–physically, at least.
Wish me luck.
And fear not, regular readers–this isn’t going to become an exclusively gluten-free blog. As I said when I wrote about my singleness status last month, GF posts will just become a part of my regular grab-bag of topics.