Dining Gluten-Free at Social Events

I recently attended a military function with my husband. It was at a very nice venue and I was relieved when I discovered that they had a gluten-free menu option. For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of eating out or attending a social event when you have to be gluten-free (sarcasm intended), consider yourself to be fortunate. I do not exaggerate when I say that it can be a very difficult experience. Not only is there the fear of cross-contamination and a subsequent gluten exposure, there is also the side effect of being starving and having nothing to eat for the duration of the event.

Side note. If you’re anything like me, you become a raging bitch when you’re starving, but that’s beside the point.

This was an event that required some mingling to visit with other military officers, soldiers, and their spouses, so my husband and I left our table and worked the crowd, so to speak. When we returned, my salad plate had been delivered, right beside my gluten-free sign. The salad was romaine lettuce, topped with shredded parmesan and buttery herb croutons.

The moral of the story…


When attending a social event gluten-free, be very afraid.

Now, I don’t believe all social events to be like this. In fact, last summer I loved every bit of labeled gluten-free goodness at my cousin’s wedding reception. Occasionally you’ll come across knowledgeable chefs and wait staff, but the majority of these events are not special-order functions. It’s kind of like the old saying, “you get what you get, and don’t throw a fit.”

Therefore, I’ll share with you some of my tips for braving the buffet line gluten-free.

  • Try to contact the host of the event to see if gluten-free is an option before the evening of the party. Follow up with the manager of the venue to ensure that the chef knows that you have an allergy.
  • Eat something before you arrive so that you’re not starving in the event that gluten-free options are not available.
  • Pack protein snacks, such as almonds or cashews in your purse.
  • If consuming alcohol, stick with wine. Beer has barley, which contains gluten.
  • When dessert is served, ask if fresh fruit is an option.
  • If a food looks too good to be true- seasonings, gravy, crisp potatoes that were likely battered in flour- it probably is.
  • Trust your instincts. You know what makes you ill. Don’t be pressured into days worth of sickness because someone said you can’t leave without trying just one bite of decadent raspberry cheesecake.

Most importantly, do your research ahead of time and take care of your body because it’s the only one you have.

Do you have any tips of attending social events gluten-free? I’d love to hear them.





Once Upon a Time: My Celiac Disease Diagnosis

Missy baking
Just doing a little baking and eating, back when I could pull off the bib overall look.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved wheat. Cookies, toast, pasties, pizza, glazed donuts, pasta. You name it, she probably ate it. She loved it all. Her love of baking started at an early age when she’d help her mom mix cookie or cake dough with the promise of getting to lick the beaters. She loved Sunday mornings when she got to visit her dad’s bakery and he’d make frosting flowers on the back of her hand. Her addiction was accepted because whole wheat was good for her. It helped her run harder, have more energy to take tests, and provided her with the nutrients she needed to be a healthy kid.

Or so it was thought.

You see, I was that girl. I was the one who ignored the stomach aches and fought through the cramps after carb loading for a big race. I was the girl who dealt with dental enamel discoloration and constant headaches and canker sores. As I entered adulthood, I felt sluggish every afternoon and my feet went numb when running. In bed at night my joints ached and my legs tingled. I was tested for MS. There were no lesions, but my questions went unanswered. I suffered three miscarriages. I developed anemia and allergy-induced asthma. The canker sores became more frequent and I was constantly ill. I had a respiratory infection three times in 1999, all while being on a daily asthma pill and two different inhalers.

The cankers sores went from uncomfortable and irritating to excruciating when my husband was deployed to Iraq, in 2004. I blamed it on stress, which I’m sure didn’t help the situation, but it was more than that. The sores were often the size of a pencil eraser head and they were constant. I used an over the counter medication before being given a stronger prescription by my dentist. Eventually I found that the only thing that soothed them was a vanilla milkshake. My children and sisters loved our frequent visits to Dairy Queen, but the ice cream only managed to mask the symptoms briefly.

My mom told me that she’d read something about wheat allergies and celiac disease. She wondered if I might have that because my symptoms were similar.

A wheat allergy? No, no, no. That’s so not happening. Hahahaha. No.

My husband returned from Iraq. We moved to Kentucky and I ran my first half marathon. My feet were numb for five miles. I became pregnant a year later. I miscarried at six weeks.

My youngest was born a year after that and our family was complete. I was tired a lot, but what mom isn’t with three young kids? That’s what I asked myself, although I knew something was different this time. I kept getting sick and the anemia wasn’t letting up. I had to wean my daughter at nine months because my milk supply was virtually non-existent and she wasn’t gaining weight. My legs were tingling a lot and I felt depleted all the time. I was treated for postpartum depression to help with the aches, but then my mouth started to go dry. I literally could not drink enough water. Still, I was parched as if I hadn’t had a drop.

I went to the doctor, convinced I was diabetic. She took a blood test, which came back normal, and told me I had thrush due to the dry mouth. She prescribed some anti-yeast tablets and told me to come back in a couple of weeks if I wasn’t feeling better.

Two weeks later, I was worse. I could barely eat because everything I ate dried up my mouth. I even tried bananas thinking that I had a potassium deficiency, and I hate bananas. Nothing worked. So I started keeping track of what dried my mouth the most.

Pizza-yes. Pasta-yes. Bread-yes. The kids’ left-over chicken nuggets- yes.

Basically everything I loved and ate every day.

I went back to the doctor and told her that I wanted to be tested for celiac disease because every time I ate wheat, my mouth dried up. The conversation pretty much went like this…

Doctor: Do you have diarrhea?

Me: No.

Doctor: Then you don’t have celiac sprue.

Me: Can I have the test anyway?

Doctor: I can’t order the test because you don’t have diarrhea.

Me: Why?

Doctor: Well, fine. But what do you want me to put on the lab sheet? Are you constipated?

Me: No.

Doctor: The insurance won’t pay for the test unless you have a symptom. I guess I’ll just write that you’re constipated.

Me: Okay?

Doctor: But you’re not constipated so you don’t need this test.

Me: Okay? You can tell them I’m constipated. It’s not like they’re going to check.

mean girls

I had the test.

Two weeks later, the doctor-who-must-not-be-named called and asked me to come in. She breezed (seriously, breezed) into the room and announced, “We’ve figured it out! You have celiac sprue!”

Me: What should I do now? And good God, why is she so happy?

Doctor: Just never eat gluten again.

Me: Just don’t eat it? Should I see a specialist or dietician or something?

Doctor: You don’t need to. Just don’t eat wheat.

I breezed out of the room, found a new physician, and visited a gastroenterologist. When the gastroenterologist told me to continue eating gluten up until the biopsy, I did just that. I ate. All. The. Things.

I also got really sick and could barely swallow for a week. At my follow-up appointment, he told me that my lab results indicated that I did have celiac disease. I went to my minivan and cried.


It wasn’t pretty.

However, that was just the start of my journey. It’s gotten easier and I do feel better. It may not have been the happiest ending, but it certainly wasn’t a tragedy, and really, it wasn’t an ending at all.

It was a beginning.

For my tips on going gluten-free,  please click on the Celiac Disease tab.

Why I Still Love Lloyd Dobler and Still Think Jake Ryan is a Skeeze

“Just knowing that a version like that exists, knowing that just for a minute she felt that and wrote ‘I can’t help loving you.’ That has to be a good thing.” Lloyd Dobler

Before I start this post, I need to write a disclaimer. I like “Sixteen Candles.” In fact, I own “Sixteen Candles.” It is, by most accounts, an 80’s classic. Samantha’s sister is hilarious, the Geek is a great character, and aside from the obvious political incorrectness throughout, it’s a pretty funny movie.

Now here is where a lot of people will likely disagree with me, but for the life of me, I can’t like Jake Ryan. He’s cute, no doubt about that. But looks aside, I think he’s pretty much a skeeze.

“You’d better not be dickin’ me around. It’d be a major downer to try and get together with this girl and find out that she really does think I’m a slime.” -Jake Ryan

Actually yes, Jake, I do think you are a slime.

However, I love Lloyd Dobler. Those who knew me in high school are quite aware of this fact. I love the way Lloyd loves Diane in “Say Anything.” I love how he doesn’t try to impress anyone or be anyone that he already isn’t. I love how he doesn’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. How he doesn’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, he doesn’t want to do that. Call him a parents’ nightmare date for their teen girl, or whatever. Lloyd is true, he’s loyal, and he’s oh so amazingly adorable that my heart still swells for him.

Let us look at the facts, shall we…

Lloyd loves Diane so much he shakes when they spend the night together. The following day, he writes her a letter saying, “Dear Diane, I’ll always be there for you. All the love in my heart. Lloyd”

On the other hand…

While Jake is at the dance, holding his girlfriend in his arms, he is looking at Samantha.

Did I mention that he didn’t even show an interest in Samantha until he read a note unintended for him, and discovered that he was the one guy she would sleep with if given the chance?

Lloyd loves his family, despite not being a priority for them.

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Lloyd’s question to his sister.

Lloyd calls Diane up and invites her out while living at the apartment that he shares with his sister and nephew. His life isn’t easy. No one in his family even made it to his high school graduation.

When Diane breaks his heart, he desperately tries to prove his love and win her back.

Standing beneath Diane’s window playing their song.




“I’ll let you take Caroline home. But you gotta make sure she gets home. You can’t leave her in a parking lot somewhere. Okay?” (how noble) “She’s so blitzed she won’t know the difference.”

When Caroline passes out, Jake lets the Geek drive her home in his dad’s Rolls-Royce…so he can call Samantha.

The kissing in the rain scene. Pretty much every 80’s girls’ fantasy date when this movie was released.

Lloyd loves Diane for who she is. He doesn’t care that she’s smart, and he isn’t intimidated by her fellowship or future success. He visits the nursing home where she works and supports her through her dad’s legal troubles.

giff 2

Um…okay? I guess if you’re Jake Ryan, a guy with a lot of money and good looks, it’s okay to dream big at the expense of your currently intoxicated girlfriend.

Lloyd’s best friend, Corey. I couldn’t agree more.

Why can’t more guys be like Lloyd?

“I have this theory of convergence, that good things always happen with bad things. I know you have to deal with them at the same time, but I just don’t know why they have to happen at the same time.” -Diane

And not like Jake Ryan?

“I can get a piece of ass anytime I want. Shit, I’ve got Caroline in the bedroom right now, passed out cold. I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to.”

I guess I’m just the type who believes if you’re going to fall in love, you should fall in love with all of your heart.


And it should be with someone who will love you back with all of his.

Dear Missy

Last summer, my sister invited me to write a guest post for her blog, http://joyfulmysteries.me. After an obscene amount of procrastination over what to post on my part, I settled on writing a letter to my teenage self, similar to the popular blog, Dear Teen Me, http://dearteenme.com/. I wasn’t sure what I’d tell my teen self if given the chance. Was there a way to prepare that naive girl from Montana for the world to come? Probably not because even if I tried, she’d likely not believe it. I could, however, try to convince her that even when things seem overwhelming, they’ll turn out okay. I could also tell her to enjoy every moment of every day because before she knows it she’ll look back and wonder where the years have gone.

Looking back at my teen years, I tend to see myself as rather average. I wasn’t one of the beautiful blonde twins portrayed in the Sweet Valley High books I read, filled with outlandish drama, betrayal, and young love. I wasn’t a rebel or a rule breaker, nor was I the scholar or editor of the school newspaper. I wasn’t voted best eyes, dressed, or most likely to do anything. I was, simply, me. And in a world before the internet, social media, cell phones, digital photos, text messaging, and YouTube, that was okay.

What I do know is that I was once a girl who didn’t quite care if the dishes were done immediately following a meal and who only made her bed about once a week, a girl who at the time, didn’t appreciate the stars dotting the sky in her hometown, but would miss them every single day after saying goodbye and moving away.

If I close my eyes, I can still see that girl, the one I used to be walking through the halls of my high school, sporting Keds and stonewashed jeans. Would she recognize me sitting at her future home in a Mariner’s t-shirt and staring out at a cloudy Western Washington sky? Probably not, but here goes…

Dear Missy,

Okay, so here’s the thing…I know you tried to get rid of the Missy moniker when you started a new school freshman year to make yourself seem older, but it didn’t work because once everyone found out it was your nickname, it stuck. And that’s totally okay because it’s who you are and you’ll come to recognize that when the people who knew you growing up call you Melissa, it sounds foreign on their tongues, and you’ll kind of hate it because to them, you were always Missy, a name that somehow becomes familiar and comforting, like a warm blanket wrapped over your shoulders on a cold, winter night.

You’ll live and breathe basketball in high school, but will never play on a team again. I know this thought makes you sad and that lump that grows in the base of your throat when you are about to cry is likely burning now, but you’ll be okay. I promise.

Your heart will be broken your junior year and although you knew this relationship wouldn’t last, it will hurt worse than you ever imagined possible. Although you’ll find it hard to believe it wasn’t your fault and you’ll want to apologize and beg him to love you as much as you love him, don’t do it. He isn’t the one, and when you see him years later at a class reunion, you’ll hug him and feel genuinely happy to see him, but you won’t love him, nor will you regret dating him because he was an important part of your life. You will, however, regret lingering on the hurt and not giving other guys a chance the remainder of high school. Ditch that last shred of hope. Date the baseball player, tell the guy you’ve had a crush on since freshman year how you really feel. Take chances and don’t let past hurts hold you back.

Consequently, and further proving that some things are meant to be, you’ll fall in love in college. He’ll be the person who makes you laugh every single day and will be a great dad to your future children. He’ll be the dreamer while you’re the realist. He’ll be your best friend and before you know it, you’ll have survived two military deployments, infant colic, differing taste in movies, and will be preparing for your twentieth wedding anniversary.

You’ll get to see Bon Jovi in concert, twice. This won’t entirely make up for the fact that you weren’t allowed to attend the Slippery When Wet concert because you were too young, but it will help. Although the disappointment of not being able to see Jon Bon Jovi fly though the air like in the “Livin on a Prayer” video will linger forever, much like the Aqua Net in an 80’s locker room.

Tom Cruise will make you go, hmmm…but you’ll still secretly watch “Cocktail” whenever it’s on.

You’ll be diagnosed with celiac disease. I know this makes no sense as you have no idea what it is right now, but all the aches and pains you experienced after diligently carb-loading before a big race will one day make sense.

Spend more time with your family and don’t worry if you skip a night out with friends. You might not believe me now, but there will come a time when you’ll miss your family every single day and you won’t remember that party long ago that you just couldn’t miss.

You’ll still cry when you’re embarrassed and you’ll get embarrassed when you cry. It’s a double-edged sword, really.

The bangs. Where do I begin with the bangs? There is no need to take a butane curling iron camping so that your hair is styled in the mountains. Seriously. One day you’ll look back at pictures and even the fact that most other girls had the same curls and styled bangs that you did won’t cushion the blow that it was a really, truly awful waste of time and products.

George Clooney will become a really big deal, but you’ll still see him as the handy-man on “The Facts of Life.”

You’ll never be an artist so don’t even bother with the stick figures. One day you’ll be a fairly decent writer, though, so keep at it.

Speaking of writing, you’ll experience rejection. A lot of it. But the stories in your head will continue surfacing so to avoid becoming a habitual daydreamer, put the words onto paper and create a world others might find interesting.

You’ll become a teacher who loves her job. I know, right? Shocked me too.

There will be more Star Wars movies. You’ll still roll your eyes whenever Luke Skywalker whines in Episode 4 and you’ll become disheartened with the franchise when the prequels are released. Take my advice—skip the prequels and wait for “Star Wars, The Force Awakens”. It’ll be worth the wait. You’ll also secretly enjoy watching “Space Balls,” although you’ll never admit how hard it makes you laugh.

You’ll look back at pictures and wish you were still that thin even though you know at the time you wanted to lose five pounds.

You’ll enjoy a television show about zombies.

In the future, you’ll experience loss. Some of these losses will be so personal and painful that even now, you won’t be able to write or talk about them. You’ll also be okay.

You like to take care of others. You also like to be in charge. You’re not very good at delegating, although you’re working on it. Organization is kind of your thing. You hate clutter and become overwhelmed by excessive paperwork. You also hate dirty microwaves. And the smell of vanilla. You love chocolate and popcorn and to this day, detest the song, “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” You hold grudges, but eventually forgive because you finally realize how silly the grudge you’ve been holding onto is. You love traditions, wine, the mountains, your oldest and dearest friends, and your family. You’re an introvert who finds it hard to spark conversations with people you don’t know. Some people view you as standoffish because of that trait, but it’s just the way you are and that’s one reason you married an extrovert.

You’ll never sing in public and are a pop culture junkie, although you’ll never really be a fan of Ferris Bueller or reality television, and you’ll always believe “Say Anything” is one of the greatest movies and love stories ever written.

Don’t worry about what you perceive others to think about you. Try not to stress if you don’t get invited to a party. Stand up for your children and never forget to say “I love you” to those who matter the most.

So, put down the curling iron and go live. You won’t regret it.



Missy high school
Before my student council speech when I ran for secretary unopposed. Luckily, I won.
missy 1
Camping at Mount Rainier with my family. Killing it with the bangs.