Tag Archives: advocacy

Gluten-Free Astrology: Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Well, hello there, Gluten-Free Libras. So glad you could make it. No, but really. GF Libras are such easygoing, sociable people—an asset to every gathering. When you join the conversation, everyone (even sullen GF Cancers and hyperactive GF Geminis like me) feels a bit more at ease.

The GF Libra is decidedly not a loner; you seek out and thrive on companionship. For you, a solitary safe dinner at home is terribly depressing; you prefer to seek out new experiences, preferably with a partner or BFF as well as some new friends-to-be. A humble GF Gemini like myself might feel awkward about whipping out my mason jar of rice and black-bean salad and gluten-free roll at a restaurant (as I wound up doing last week), but you never would. And, given your level-headedness and communication skills, you’re almost always able to successfully convey your needs to the waiter and chef and manage to wrangle a safe meal for yourself anyway.

scales (symbol of Libra)

Though the gluten-free diet, despite popular misconception, doesn’t have much at all to do with weight, the GF Libra is all about the scales.
Photo © Joie De Cleve | Flickr

In fact, I would love to carry one of you around in my back pocket to pull out whenever I need to calmly explain something about celiac disease or gluten-free living to someone who’s just not getting it. You’d acknowledge both sides of the discussion, calmly bring us to an understanding, and smooth out any tensions or hurt feelings as you went. In short, you’d do a much better job than I ever do.

If spokespeople were selected by community vote, GF Libras—the ultimate people people—would be nominated, seconded, and appointed without a word of dissent from anyone. (Well, except for the Leos, who would feel the crown really belonged to them.) And, indeed, GF Libras are excellent advocates: they care intensely about fairness and are able to raise awareness for their community without forgetting the priorities of others. Put your advocacy skills to the test this month. Though National Celiac Awareness Day is behind us and our month is a ways away, there’s plenty of work for you to do in the meantime.

The GF Libra is ruled by Venus, and therefore loves loveliness. No misshapen gluten-free cookies make their way onto your buffet table—everything must be perfect. Oh, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you make them yourself; many Libras are so laid-back as to be underachievers. If your baking skills don’t hold up, rather than try, try again, you’d probably walk, walk to the door of that local GF bakery that makes the most beautiful cupcakes, with piped-on frosting blossoms. So they cost $6 each? Ah, well, what’s a little extravagance in the pursuit of happiness?

According to my astrology bible, Libras love to spruce up their homes with tasteful luxury. Now, I happen live with a GF Libra, and while she doesn’t precisely display this characteristic, she was the one who had the idea to buy glass canisters and fill them with certified gluten-free grains and beans as a display piece.

shelf with canisters of gluten-free grains and cookbooks displayed

Totally the work of a GF Libra.

And, although we’ve lived in our apartment for nearly three months now without putting up our art, she is rather more bothered than I am by it. For the slight discrepancy, we might blame her lazy Libran nature, or perhaps her nurture: our Taurean father’s practical housekeeping and Scorpio mother’s conservative fiscal habits probably tamped down her inherent frivolousness.

Perhaps, internally, she does waffle between frivolity and sensibility. If so, she wouldn’t be alone, for many GF Libras struggle with trying to be all things to all people and therefore feel as though they’re never quite themselves, never wholly real. Often, they sense that something vitally important is missing from their lives. It’s probably gluten.

The GF Libra is associated with the kidneys, and several studies have indicated a connection between celiac and renal disease. Although these studies have failed to disclose the astrological signs of the surveyed subjects, I think we can safely surmise that many of them were born between September 23rd and October 22nd.

You know who was definitely born in that range? These GF Libra celebrities. Oh, and there are plenty. Check them out:

Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow, born September 27th, 1972, typifies her sign’s natural loveliness: she was named People‘s “Most Beautiful Woman” in April, and she’s in the public eye for several different philanthropic and awareness-raising campaigns. However, she’s unnaturally polarizing to the GF community. Though she’s certainly out there talking about her gluten-free diet, nobody’s sure she’s talking about it quite right. But her nonchalant book title, personal motto, and retort to our accusations that she distorts the diet’s purpose couldn’t be much more Libran: “It’s all good.” Sure, Gwyneth. Sure it is.
Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian, born October 21, 1980, is another GF Libra who goes 100 percent against my earlier statement about Libras being the most welcome gluten-free advocates (but don’t worry, everything else I said is true). As of this tweet in 2012, she was all about the gluten-free diet, and went on record about the great weight loss she achieved from it. The community, judging from such comments as those at Gluten Dude’s site, was not thrilled. Our wonderful journalists over at the Examiner later kept us up to date when she cheated with some ramen. Goodness. It really is tough to keep up with her.

Are you a GF Libra who really does present gluten-free life in a balanced, truthful way, or do you know of another one? Let me know in the comments if so!

As always, the “information,” such as it is, in this post has been largely ripped off from The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need, by Joanna Martine Woolfolk, which is in fact the only astrology book you’ll ever need (need here being a relative term).

See also: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo

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Not enough celiac awareness? I’ve got plenty.

So we’ve come to Celiac Awareness Month. I’m excited for all of the special features and extra blogging everyone will be doing this month, and maybe I’ll even get out to an event or two in the real world. But for myself, I’m mostly going to keep doing as I’ve been doing. Because I’m already celiac-aware. Celiac-hyperaware, you might say. If you split open my skull to check, my brain might look something like this:

celiac_aware_brain

Okay, maybe with a little less space for spatial awareness. But you get the picture.

Point is, I already devote a lot of gray matter every day to thinking about, talking about, writing about, obsessing about celiac disease. If I could only remove tiny hunks of my brain tissue and implant them in other people’s brains to repopulate their awarenesses, then they could think a bit more about it, I could think a bit less about it (and more about my novel), and we’d have ourselves a healthy celiac awareness ecosystem. Like a fecal transplant!

In a small way, that’s what I’m trying to do with this blog. (The awareness transplant, not the fecal kind.) Although, let’s be honest here, most of you are pretty darn celiac-aware already.

When I learned I had celiac disease, I started from a point of heightened awareness. I’d been researching food-related illnesses for some time—call it a hobby—and in my professional life I worked (and still do) with gluten-free cookbooks. I also reaped the benefits of living in a place and time that is in fact more celiac-aware (or at least gluten-aware) than ever before.

But I definitely became more aware once I had it myself. I started this blog, I saw celiac symptoms in everyone I knew, I began musing on grandiose ideas like hosting gluten-free speed-dating events or providing gluten- and allergy-free birthday cakes to kids whose parents can’t afford them. So far, these ideas have foundered on the shoals of logistics. If you live in New York and want to talk about any of them, please get in touch!

Although I’m enjoying this blog and being a part of the smart, supportive, friendly community here on the internet, I’ve struggled with this. Given that I have celiac disease and I think a lot about celiac disease, I feel vulnerable to the claim it’s “self-indulgence” more than “celiac awareness” that fills my brain. I feel guilty.

For example, when I wrote about the connection between hunger and celiac disease, I looked into how one could donate gluten-free food. But then I thought, where was I before I knew I had celiac disease? And even setting that aside, where have I been in general? The hurricane that wiped out huge portions of the New York metro area happened months ago, and no doubt the best time to begin contributing would have been in October.

Plus, hunger was of course a fact long before that, a systemic problem affecting an enormous population nearby me and worldwide. I knew that well before the fall of 2012. Why haven’t I been better about contributing to the solution? Why has it taken me having a problem to want to help others? And why is the idea of donating Rice Chex so much more appealing to me than the idea of donating money to a general fund for the hungry?

Then I get cynical. I wonder, does every celiac disease advocate have celiac disease? Are all food allergy advocates people who have, or whose family members have, food allergies? Are all antiracism activists all people who have experienced racism? Are all GLBTQ activists GLBTQ? Are all feminist activists women?

Is all activism selfish?

Are we all too wrapped up in ourselves to get involved in helping people whose concerns are foreign to us? And is a disabled person who spends his life advocating for disability awareness less noble than an abled person who does it?

I believe the answer to all of these is no. There are people who advocate for others almost reflexively, whether or not there’s a personal connection. There are entire industries built around nonprofits and public service that allow many, many people to work or volunteer in support of awareness or advocacy campaigns of all kinds.

And furthermore, I don’t think activism is really cheapened by being beneficial to its advocates. If someone spends a lifetime advocating for the rights and happiness of a population to which he happens to belong, is that so bad? Plenty of other people are part of the same population, and not doing much to help it or any other group.

A life of service is a good life. Sacrifice and selflessness can support a life of service—but only to a point. If you feel unconnected to your work, you’re more susceptible to burnout. And if you have the impulse to help but allow yourself to be stymied by regret that you didn’t help enough before, or aren’t helping enough people, or aren’t helping for the right reasons, then you won’t end up being helpful at all.

Part of any awareness campaign must be an awareness of just how many things there are to be aware of. There are good and bad causes, selfish and selfless concerns competing for everyone’s attention at every moment. By focusing our energy on one concern, we’re setting aside others.

I aspire to be aware of suffering, injustice, and inequality, broadly speaking. I hope that my daily words and actions demonstrate this, and when they don’t, I hope to be called on it so I can do better. I hope that as my life evolves and settles, I find the time and the energy to help more people more than I do now. And in the meantime, I’ll strive to be self-aware about my own divided awareness.

That said, bring on the Bob’s Red Mill giveaways. I’m ready.

Happy Celiac Awareness Month, folks.

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Remember you are not the doctor.

Photo © Josh Clark | Flickr Creative Commons

Photo © Josh Clark | Flickr Creative Commons

Doctors’ receptionists have a tough job. They deal with stressed, unhappy, contagious people all day, and when they aren’t doing that, they file and photocopy paperwork, deal with ancient fax machines, and, I bet, put up with crap from the doctors. I’ve read that some offices don’t even provide their front-desk staff with internet access—which, to me, is practically a human rights violation. They probably get ill constantly from all the germs, and when they aren’t physically sick, they’re sick of their job.

Knowing this, I try not to be one of “those” patients. I’d say I’m pretty friendly, and I know I’m polite. In return, I hope for civility and, ideally, a bit of compassion. In my most recent medical experiences, I’ve encountered neither. My doctor never called me with my positive bloodwork results, and when I scheduled a follow-up, he and his staff forgot to check my results until I asked about them specifically. They were brusque and unapologetic and they sent me a duplicate copay bill.

When the time came to get my biopsy results, I didn’t want to go in and do it all over again (not to mention pay another copay or two). Instead, I tried to find everything out over the phone, and it got messy. In the end, the receptionist got fed up with me and said, “Remember, ma’am, you are not the doctor.”

This stuck with me, and not only because I found it funny that she called little ole 23-year-old me ma’am. It was also simply good advice. As I gear up for my first appointment with a brand-new doctor, I thought I’d share it. If you are a doctor, this may not apply to you. But otherwise:

Remember you are not the doctor.

Remember you do not have the doctor’s medical training, or credentials. Remember that to many, your understanding of your own health will never count. Remember you are presumed ignorant. Remember if you speculate or self-diagnose, you will be accused of hypochondria. Remember that not everything you’ve read or heard is true. Remember you may be biased, and remember fear can cloud your judgment.

But also: Remember it’s okay to be scared.

Remember to stay calm. Remember you care more about your health than anyone could who is paid to do so. Remember you have spent many recent hours researching your symptoms, and that if your doctor hasn’t kept up with latest research, you may in fact be better informed. Remember you are open to new ideas. Remember you do not have hundreds of other patients to keep track of. Remember you are focused. Remember you are the world’s leading expert on your own medical history and feelings.

Remember you are you.

Remember it is you, and not your doctor, who must live with whatever treatment—or lack of treatment—you’re prescribed. Remember you can seek a second opinion, or a third, or a tenth. Remember instinct counts for something, too. Remember it is easier for you to walk out on your doctor than for your doctor to walk out on you. Remember you’re worth more than a copay. Remember there are people rooting for you or relying on you to get well. Remember you are your own best advocate, but you are not your only advocate.

Remember you are loved.

Remember you are smart, and strong, and beautiful, and kind, and worthy, and interesting, and special, and whatever else you need to remind yourself of before you walk into the waiting room for your next appointment; but for God’s sake, remember you are not the doctor.

And remember you’re important anyway.

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