When a Colleague Has Food Allergies

A couple of months ago, I overheard a young lady and her colleague on the elevator, in a conversation that went something like this:

“Are you going to the pizza lunch?”

“Yes, I guess we have to. It’s mandatory.”

“Except for those people who asked for gluten-free.” She started shaking her head and continued, “Come on, it’s a free lunch.”

Ever since that conversation I still find myself shaking my head in disbelief that anyone could say something so unenlightened. Whether a person has an allergy, an intolerance, a medical condition, a dietary restriction or a preference, people’s food choices need to be respected. Period!

I suspect that the young lady in question probably does not have a family member with a food allergy or intolerance, for her to say that a lunch being free is a good reason to eat something that could pose an allergy risk.

In my case, wheat can turn my world completely upside down for about 24 hours. Imagine if you will, your absolute worst stomach flu, resulting in frequent, persistent, urgent and (please excuse the vulgarity) “explosive” trips to the washroom. Then add the sensation of something sharp painfully working its way through the digestive system.

By the time it has worked its way out of my system, some 24 hours later, exhaustion sets in, as well as a very uncharacteristic grouchiness, as I become cold, tired and hungry following the incident. And when life delivers a heavy dose of stress or anxiety on top of that, the intensity of the symptoms is magnified.

Without going into more crude details, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of how it feels. The experience is so unpleasant that the idea of consuming wheat, even in small amounts, is out of the question for me.

When it comes to my intolerance, I’m not looking for pity or praise in how I deal with it and I wouldn’t dream of imposing on anyone to go out of their way to make sure a wheat-free option is available. I understand that people are busy.

I look forward to the day that a solution to food intolerance is found. Life takes a lot more planning, food preparation and can become costly, when alternate products or ingredients cost two to three times more.

I definitely have an open mind when it comes to new theories and medical reports and I welcome any new information people forward to me (… except the ones that refer to food intolerance as a myth. Thanks anyway! My Charmin bill tells a different story.)

People who have food allergies are not trying to be dramatic or frivolous. For some, it is a matter of health and wellness. For others, it might be a matter of life and death.

We all have different body chemistries and different genetic predispositions. When it comes to food, one size does not fit all and people can’t help that. The lady in the elevator’s judgemental comment was out of line and inappropriate.

Anyone with food allergies already has a more challenging path in life between reading food labels, searching for safe recipes, preparing foods from scratch to guarantee their safety and being so vigilant to avoid unexpected or accidental sources. For some it means carrying an Epipen for the rest of their lives, just in case.

A little sensitivity is all we ask. If we politely decline an offer of free food, just go along with it.

To the friends, family and colleagues who have been so kind, generous, understanding and respectful in this regard, I offer you my heartfelt thanks.

The bottom line: Even if a lunch is free, the price I may have to pay for it afterward is not worth it.

Did you enjoy this post?  If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from!  If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under food, Health and Wellness, Misc blogs

The Struggle to Pick a Format for a Story Idea

Last year, I was most fortunate in having enough blog content ready to post, that I could afford myself a little time to pursue other creative writing opportunities. There have been several ideas for fictional stories swirling around in my head lately, and committing them to paper (before I forget them) was becoming increasingly important as plot twists and defining moments in conversation were routinely popping into my head.

What seems to be a continuing trend, whether writing for my blog or for a fictional piece, is that I don’t seem to have a linear process of writing a story from beginning to end. It starts with glimmers of ideas that spawn other ideas that, over time, can be organized into an outline which then leads to the development of the background and context to connect those ideas.

It’s not pretty and makes writing a bit of a puzzle, but if directors can shoot movies out of sequence, why can’t a writer write out of sequence. In the end, the process of reassembling and organizing the sections can be just as much fun. Thankfully, technology makes that part so much easier.

However, for my fictional material, a new struggle emerged. As much as my little writer’s voice has been very enthusiastic about spreading its wings and committing creative material to paper, it has also been subject to some analysis paralysis.

The question that keeps coming up: What is this story? Is it a novel? Is it a short story? Is it a play? Is it a screenplay? Is it a movie? Is it a series?

I can’t tell you how many times this question rambles in the back of my mind when I am stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Continue reading

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New Year’s Resolution 2018: Inner Peace (Again!)

When I look back on last year’s blog post “Resolution: Inner Peace”, I remember how tired I was with the status quo at that time. For someone who is usually seen as positive, upbeat and generally calm, cool and collected, something just wasn’t right. Even in life’s quietest moments, I found my core jumping into “fight or flight” mode and didn’t know why. Little stressors were sparking up stronger reactions within me and anxiety was starting to take over.

I also found myself having a hard time letting go of chapters that were seemingly concluded. This wasn’t me! As this prolonged over time, I found my energy was heading downhill.

Despite having a huge tool kit of stress management techniques that I had accumulated over the years, I just couldn’t keep these stressors in check and to get past them. Negative emotions were festering and growing. I couldn’t get the upper hand on the situation and I didn’t know why.

I felt like I was headed the wrong way down a one-way street and getting farther away from the more serene self that I aspire to be. My 2017 resolution for seeking out inner peace was probably the best declaration I ever made. I was prepared for change.

Three anxiety attacks into 2017, I had hit my limit. It was time to seek help. My referral to a psychotherapist was the catalyst that helped me begin to break the cycle of anxiety.

But it wasn’t easy. I would say this was one of the toughest projects I had ever undertaken, having to recall and relive many of the stressors throughout my lifetime to find out what they had in common. Continue reading

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Boxing Day Memories: Sam the Record Man

When I think back to my Christmas wish lists over the years, music has been a constant. As a long time music lover, my voracious appetite for music goes as far back as age 10.

Through my early teens, I had an allowance from my parents, and in my later teen years, I had pocket money from a part-time job. A lot of that money was spent on records.

At that time, vinyl record albums were relatively pricey for someone earning $2.35 per hour. Christmas became that opportunity to ask Santa for the albums I did not get a chance to pick up myself through the year.

In preparing that wish list, there was some careful consideration and a few (if not several) trips to the record store(s) to ensure that the albums I chose would bring maximum enjoyment. I would meticulously review the song lists and count the number of songs I knew versus the ones I didn’t, and then compared from one album to the next.

We didn’t have listening stations, YouTube, iTunes or Spotify to check out those other unknown songs. Sometimes I might have been able to borrow a certain album from a friend or from the library, but for the most part, those other songs were often a mystery until the record was home and on the turntable.

When I think back, I am surprised at how methodical I was for such a young age, but value for money was pretty important given my limited means and my appetite for music. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Christmas, Humour, music

Keeping the Christmas Tree Vertical (in the Presence of a Curious Cat)

The first Christmas after Ivy the Wonder Cat joined me, the same jitters that I felt before her adoption were back with a vengeance. This time, I was worried about how she would behave around the artificial Christmas tree.

Five months into our relationship, I already knew she was a good little kitty who didn’t have any predispositions to destructive behaviour. Nonetheless, she still had a strong curious streak which could make the tradition of keeping a Christmas tree upright a challenge. I had heard enough horror stories and seen enough videos to know just exactly what cats are capable of, in the presence of a bright, shiny “play structure” in the middle of the living room.

I turned to my panel of experts at the office who all offered fabulous, practical tips to keeping the tree and the cat safe (thanks again, everyone!) Plus, with experience, I added a few of my own ideas upon realizing that my cat was not only smart but fearless when it came to climbing the tree.

Here are some of the strategies I use to keep my Christmas tree vertical throughout the holiday season:

– For the first Christmas with Ivy, I kept my most cherished (and breakable) ornaments in a box, safely tucked away until I knew how she would behave. This took some of the fear and apprehension out of the experience.

– When I install the tree lights, I try to avoid the branches at the very bottom, within the reach of her paws. By avoiding those branches, not only is it safer for Ivy and the tree, I find that at human eye-level, the overall appearance of the tree is enhanced given the greater concentration of lights higher up. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Christmas

Enjoying the Holidays without Overcharging the Senses

When I wrote the blog post “How I Became an Early Christmas Shopper”, I suggested that the reason why I felt more inclined to shop earlier and avoid the mayhem of malls in December, was perhaps a question of becoming more sensitive.

One year later, after a series of discussions with a therapist, I realize it may not be a question of “becoming” more sensitive. In all likelihood, I always was.

Even though I stand right on the line between introvert and extrovert, with one foot well into extrovert territory, it is still easy for me to get overwhelmed. There is no shortage of events in the month of December to overcharge one’s senses:

– Faster pace: The office often gets busier with a surge of activity in trying to tie up loose ends on projects and produce the last status reports of the year, before everyone takes vacation time.

– More activity: The social calendar tends to fill with holiday parties and lunches with family, friends and co-workers.

– Sensory stimulation: Shopping malls with lights and decorations hanging from every nook and cranny, with the aroma of hundreds of perfumes hanging in the air, as music blares from shops like they are nightclubs, while kids scream from being hungry, too warm, too tired or all of the above.

– And on an empathetic level, as much as people romanticize it as being “the most wonderful time of the year”, there is no shortage of negative energy in the air to soak up through people’s rushing, their impatience, their aggressive driving and their temper tantrums in stores. Continue reading

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The Hunt for Gluten-Free Fruit Cake – 2017 Edition

Regular readers probably know that I have my moments where I might be considered a bit of an oddball, especially when it comes to my borderline-obsessive love of fruit cake. It hasn’t always been that way though.

When I was younger I would have a couple of pieces from the overflowing tray of treats passed around the table at Christmas, and I’d be set for the year.

But it was in my body’s rejection of gluten a decade ago, that I had to stop all foods involving wheat flour including fruit cake.

For something that I only ate once per year, it wasn’t a catastrophic loss, but with each passing Christmas after that, I grew to miss the tradition that much more. I also grew to appreciate it as one of life’s simple pleasures at the most wonderful, most festive time of the year.

A few years ago, I even wrote a poem about my hunt for the perfect gluten-free fruit cake. It wasn’t easy. The hunt, not the poem.

Around here, not a lot of stores sell gluten-free fruit cake and for the ones that do, I found the experience to be a very pricey one and sometimes a disappointing one. I remember one in particular that lived up to all of the hype and negative connotations about heavy and dry fruit cakes, and added a few more.

Then inspiration hit. How hard can it be to make gluten-free fruit cake for myself? Continue reading

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Filed under Christmas, How to