For the Birds… And Apparently for the Bears, Too

My mother passed away in 2006. Sometimes I write letters to her, just to let her know how I’m doing, what’s going on in my life. I figure she already knows, being Wherever it is she is right now, but it makes me feel a little better if I can pretend to have a dialogue with her.

It’s been a long time since my last letter. I had a lot to catch her up on. Some of what came out, I realized, could be posted here– but not all of it. There are some things a girl tells her mom that she wouldn’t want published for the world to read. But the part about the seeds, I figured that was okay.

Dear Momma,


The other thing that happened was in March of 2013, right after Honey and I moved in together, I got laid off. Right after that, I started getting really sick. REALLY sick. Waking up from a dead sleep in the process of vomiting sick. It scared me. So, not having access to insurance, having been laid off, I ran to the web and did some research. I found out that I probably had GERD, more commonly known as Acid Reflux. That spelled out the end of food as I knew it for SURE. Nothing with flavor ever again, and horrible meds that make the symptoms slightly better, but make the underlying problem worse. Then I discovered that a diet Wolf Mama has been on since before I met her—the Paleo diet—makes acid reflux go away for some people. SOLD! It was still difficult to get onboard—no grains, no sugar, no SOY, no PEANUTS, NO CORN. HOW? How are you supposed to eat like that? Soy and corn are in everything! And here’s the kicker: no diet foods; no aspartame. Honey for sweetener, and that only occasionally. But I figured I’d do it for a while until I got better, then I’d be fine.

HA. The GERD cleared up almost instantly, but if I slipped on the diet, it slipped back in. It was good motivation to stay with it. And I lost 30 pounds that way! And then, I started getting a different kind of sick whenever I cheated. WHENEVER I cheated—which was BUILT IN to the diet. You get to cheat. But it made me sick. This time, the unpleasant symptoms lasted for days. Again, I went back to my research, and that’s when I discovered Celiac’s Disease. I have some common and some less common symptoms, but all the weird stuff that’s been going on with me—some of it since childhood—ALL of them were on The List of 300, including being unable to lose weight regardless of whatever else I was doing.

I wish I had known about Celiac’s Disease back when you were still alive. There are over 300 different symptoms, and while there are some common ones, it’s not necessarily the same experience for everyone. Some people lose weight, and some people gain it and can’t get it off. But there were so many—SO MANY—that you had. I have trouble believing now that all of those ailments you had weren’t connected. I wish…. Maybe if you knew then, things would have been different. In fact, I know things would have been different, but maybe they would have ended different?

I have been doing my best to eat gluten free since October, when I figured it out. I put the Paleo on hold for a while, while I was learning. I mean, going on a diet is one thing, but facing a lifetime diet change that you WILL be on for the rest of your life takes time to adjust. It’s like nothing I’ve ever dealt with before, and it was horrible. I hated it. No more bakeries. No more sandwiches. No more restaurants. No more having dinner at a friend’s house. No more FOOD, it felt like some days. And most difficult for me, no more baking. My world was very small.

I mean, I’m resilient, you know. I can learn to live without baked goods. It’s not easy at first, but it can be done. It was the social aspects that hurt. People bond over food, and I was no longer able to join in that bonding. I had never felt so alone.

As I grieved for my former life, I, of course, did more research. There is life after diagnosis, even with Celiac’s. It has become a fad, now, you know, to eat gluten free. On the one hand, many people who eat gf don’t need to, and make the rest of us look bad. On the other hand, there are so many more options than there ever were before! And all of these people are developing gf recipes! And they are explaining the chemistry of how and why ingredients interact the way that they do.

I’m learning, in a way I never would have before. I’m learning baker’s chemistry, and I’m learning how to tell which restaurants claim to give a shit (Olive Garden, I’m looking at you), and which ones actually do. I’m learning how blessed I am with amazing friends and family willing to accommodate my needs. My world is expanding once more. And this weekend, I made bread. Real bread. Soft, fluffy, have a sandwich bread, with buckwheat, which, counterintuitively is not related to wheat and does not contain gluten. It looks a little funny– buckwheat always give food a weird color– but it tastes like whole wheat bread. I cried.

The funny thing is, one of the things I’ve really missed– I haven’t had it in years, but once you realize you never will again, it creates a little hole, you know? I missed your stupid, awful, boring cream of wheat. And counter-counterintuitively, that one DOES contain gluten. I don’t think I ever told you, but that one was comfort food for me. It was what you pulled out for hot cereal when you were looking to mix it up from oatmeal. It was the vacation from oatmeal, so not only was it warm and comforting, but it was special. Even if it was plain.

Well, in all my baking research, I found out about all these other grains and pseudograins that won’t make me sick. One of them is millet. Most people would recognize millet immediately as birdseed. The little, tiny, yellow bubbles of birdseed. But you can grind it up into flour and it is really lovely to bake with– a very soft flavor and has some good nutrients in it, too. It’s pretty nifty.

Well, what I just discovered is that you can make cream of millet. Momma, YOU CAN MAKE IT IN A RICE COOKER. THIS IS THE MOST BRILLIANT THING EVER!!! Three parts water to one part millet seed, and just let it cook till it’s done. Then add your milk and your flavors (or raisins at the very beginning, like with oatmeal), and you’re done. You can add cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar, vanilla extract, walnuts– whatever you fancy– and it tastes just as good with pretty much the same texture.

I missed you this weekend, so I made cream of millet. It was like being home again, for just a little bit.

I love you.

One thought on “For the Birds… And Apparently for the Bears, Too”

  1. I was already trying to get something out of my eye so, ya know, thanks for the waterworks. That helps a bunch!

    This is a great post! Good info, heart warming, your mom would be proud =) and I suspect she’d be with you in the kitchen learning all this new stuff!!

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