Saturday, March 8, 2014

Piece of cake? or How food photography saved my life!

I had mentioned in my last post that I have news.... but, to get to the good news, I first have to talk about the not so happy part.

My last year at the University in 1991, on the second day of the last semester, I had a very simple operation on my elbow to remove a bone chip and to fix the tendonitis that had come because of it. I couldn't quite wake up from that operation and two days later had become desperately sick with 'the flu' which I never really quite got over. When I look back, this was the 'line in the sand' for me.

Twelve years ago, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) and I can see that the beginning of my wide array of symptoms started there - when I had that operation. It was a relief, actually, to get a diagnosis. You see, CFIDS is invisible.  For example, I may feel the sensation of a high fever but the thermometer will read normal. I may say that I'm exhausted but, these days, most people are.... yet, they seem to be functioning better than I can. How does one express the sensation of having kryptonite in one's pocket? How does one get across what it feels like to experience that utter, sheer, lightning strike exhaustion and weakness?! How does one express the disappointment of waking up with hopes for a day, only to find oneself stuck on the couch and unable to move - especially when it happens day after day? and this is just the exhaustion! Forget the confusion, the headaches, the getting sick at the drop of a hat, etc. etc.  It makes me appear lazy, more unorganized than I am and, quite honestly, oftentimes... like a total ditz because I'm too tired to think!

The plus side of all of this is the trial by fire that it took me such a long time to appreciate!!! I have learned empathy and compassion!! I've learned to not assume that I understand what others are going through and I have SO learned not to judge others.... you just never know what is going on inside of someone else or in their life!! Being beyond exhausted has been the most tremendous cure for perfectionism - after a while, one just does NOT care anymore if things are done to the 'nth' degree of perfection - one just wants to get SOMETHING done!! It has forced me to live a quieter, simpler life - that life that so many extol but so few live! It has made me get to the point that I don't care a toot (am thinking stronger language but we'll just let it slide....) what people think of me and it has taught me to not be angry at them when they do make judgements and put expectations on me that aren't fair and none of their business in the first place! It has taught me to wait quietly and patiently on God in my imperfections and confusions and to not lean on my own understanding but to just trust, trust, trust in Him! He has so patiently waited for me to get to the end of ME and myself and all of my self sufficiency (I'm very stubborn)!! and speaking of... it has taught me to let go of all of my illusions/delusions that I could do something to earn His love or to deserve His favor. In short, it's taught me what it means to be a beautiful mess!

Oh! and, I almost forgot.... with the terrible memory that comes with it - it has taught me to live in the moment. ;)

You know, quite honestly, I'm telling you the good parts but there are some really unfortunate things that have come because of it but.... this is just not the place to go into all that.

Now! The good news!! 

At the beginning of 2013, I started attempting food photography. I mean, I love food photography but it's a bit hard and, so, I rolled up my sleeves and started practicing - trying. Wow!! Have I had a fun time messing around in the kitchen and the men in this house have been beyond ecstatic about the new direction my photography obsession had taken!

One of my favorite food photographers is Aran Goyoaga from the blog 'Cannelle et Vanille' and she had just come out with a beautiful cookbook a few months before. The deal is, her recipes are gluten free. I was quite curious to see if the recipes resulted in food that tasted as good as it looked and, holy-moley - it is SO wonderfully delicious!! I'm actually, at this point, sloooowly working my way through all of the recipes in the book - it's been so fun!

The curious thing that I've been observing all year long is how good I feel after I eat these gluten free recipes. And, perhaps, you can see where this is going....

To get to the point, last November, I was once again observing that I had none of my typical food reactions associated with the CFIDS when I ate those gluten free foods. Then, one morning, I had a slice of the Celtic farmhouse bread that I had made the day before - full of white wheat, whole wheat, barley and Rye - all the things that contain gluten!! It was the only thing I had eaten that day and the reaction was obvious and the light bulb went on.

And, now, what can I say about all of this? Perhaps I should say that I am some kind of silly that it took me a year to figure it out!! I mean - people are talking about it EVERYWHERE!! In my defense, it turns out (and this was a nasty shock for me) that I am one of those people who they test to 20 parts per million of contamination for. I am severely sensitive of even the tiniest traces of gluten. sigh.

So, at this point, I'm thinking that I could have been telling my story, all this time, with so much more pathos but.... in reality, I just want to say that...

I am feeling so much better, it's ridiculous!

My life has turned absolutely upside down!!!

It seems to be taking a while to heal but, for the most part, it's like night and day! It's been a steep learning curve, though. I mean, there have been moments when I've been thinking, "what in the world CAN I eat, then?" (I lived a whole week on eggs and chocolate chips because that was all I had that I could trust! ;)) Also, gluten free foods are so very expensive and I am making much, much more from scratch, these days! It's been keeping me desperately busy!!

So! That's a very condensed testimony of my journey so far! and, If you've made it this far, I kiss you on the cheek and salute you!!

and the pictures of the cakes? I made them last year and I know just how I felt after them - it wasn't pretty!! but, back then, I thought that it was the price I would have to pay for a moment of bliss. Don't feel sad for me, though! These days, the name of the game isn't, "too bad! I can't eat that!" It's, "how can I convert this to be gluten free?!" It's a grand old adventure!!!!



  1. Luvya, so glad you are feeling better. I know, not from personal experience, but because I come from a family line where gluten intolerance is almost a family trait. I remember my mother and how her life changed, back in the '70s--long before gluten was recognized as a problem for many people. She was one of the pioneers, no shelves full of gluten-free products, no lists of manufactuers who guaranteed that their processing lines were gluten-free; she created her own recipes.

    1. "I remember my mother and how her life changed back then...." Oh, my heart, John!! My life has so changed!! =) and she encourages me to no end! By the way, my first draft of this started out with something you had told me years ago. "The best thing that can happen to a person is that they come down with a serious chronic illness!" The conversation had been about how it forces our priorities and makes us think about life! (When we have the ability to form cohesive thoughts, that is! ;) ) xo

    2. Katie: the statement needs to be completed by adding the phrase, "and learn to manage it."

  2. Oh Katy!! How marvelous that you have found this gluten-free place! My daughter just began this a few weeks ago, and says how much better they feel. So, I bought my first gluten-free bread mix this week and tried it out. It definitely is something to consider, and investigate from my end. It is just so exciting to read your testimony and how much better you feel!! Sooo happy for you!! xx

    1. Oh, thank you, Bev!! I am so glad that I found out after a year of experimentation and experience. It's something that really takes getting used to (that steep scramble of a learning curve!) but has been so desperately worth it to me! xxo

  3. How happy I am to hear of your discovery and how much it has turned your life around. I cannot imagine how difficult the previous years must have been. I am constantly amazed everyday by how we are affected by what we put into our bodies. Lucky are the ones who are blessed to discover what they need, or don't need, to thrive. Most of all it warms my heart to know you are feeling well and owe it to your photography interest. Just as you began to feel better day by day, your photographs also became more beautiful as you mastered the art of photography. Enjoy your new endeavors in the kitchen cooking gluten free! hugs!

    1. Thank you so much, Julie!! Actually, one of the lovely things about photography is that, when my body is exhausted and I can't find two words to rub together, I can still see and imagine - the photography goes around all of that and has been the happiest of creative outlets for me! A breath of life when I was still back in 'just accepting' and 'doing the best I could' mode!

      By the way, when I mentioned this to Aran Goyoaga, she simply and so correctly said, "Drs. very often don't give enough attention to the importance of what eat." (paraphrased.)

      But Julie... although the gluten free bread is HEAVEN - it's too gooey to knead by hand.... =( I miss that! On the 'up' side, there's a recipe for gluten free sour dough that I'm very excited to try one of these days! ;) =)

      Thanks for you kind wishes for me!! =) xo

  4. Oh my Katy, I am reaching out giving you a big hug, beautiful and heartwarming post. I know tired…from a heart condition…I know the feelings from eating gluten…just been told I have LOTS of food allergies. Jen

  5. That is wonderful that you have connected a cause to your symptoms Katy! That is half the battle isn't it? There is more and more gluten free products coming out every day. Why are they so expensive though? But look at how much you are having trying to figure out new recipes. You are lucky that you are a good cook - and a fantastic food photographer. Your photos always make me hungry! :)
    Keep getting better my friend!
    xo Catherine

  6. Thanks for the kiss! Aran is a legend, I whole heartedly agree and clearly so are you --x-- So glad for you Katy...I am humming a little gluten free tune for you..--x-x-x--

  7. Darling Katy,
    How very brave of you to write all this and share it on a public platform. This cannot have been easy to write but we hope that not only you feel better through writing it all down but others, including ourselves, will feel inspired by your words.

    We cannot agree more that when one is put into the position of having a serious illness, many other aspects of Life become much more clearly into focus. One really does appreciate simple pleasures and one takes joy in the essentials of Life itself rather than the trappings which often confuse and distract. We have always considered you to be that type of person and the grace and compassion with which you live your life shines through in what you write, the images you present and the connections you make with your readers. We feel that our lives have been enriched through 'knowing' you.

    You have worked so hard with the photography. The development is amazing since the early days of your blog posts. Now, your images truly are Art forms and convey so much more than a simple picture. Your eye for composition as well as the talent to control the camera is evident and very special. Your photographs really do give you a voice that rings out clear and true.......a perfect method of communication when exhaustion may mean that other methods might fail.

    Love of family, of friends, of God and of the Natural World come through with every single word that you write and every single picture. You illuminate our lives more than you can possibly know and for that we are truly grateful.

  8. Dear Katy

    It is a blessing to read that you are feeling so much better from changing your diet. Knowing what we know about genetically modified wheat here in North America. I think it is a matter of time until more and more people will refuse wheat products. I have been experimenting with gluten free flours

    Your photography us wonderful and I feel you have discovered your art form.

    Wishing you continued success and good health always


  9. oh katy, first i am so so happy that it all turned out well in the end. i have been toying with the idea of trying gluten free cooking ... at least for a bit and seeing what that is all about. like you say, it is just everywhere and surely there is a reason why people are going on about it. second, i have always loved your food photos... maybe it is the light you have or the post processing you do, but they always turn out so dreamy and charming. i love love love your photos.

    sending you hugs and much love.

  10. What a wonderful story. God has taken you on a journey and He always knows how to bless along the way. Great pictures!

  11. You will feel so much better gluten-free !! A "silver-lining" in your journey :) Agree 100% ... health issues can be a mixed blessing b/c we do tend to simplify and appreciate life in full. God bless ya Sister! ox

  12. Dear Katy,

    Just sending lots of love your way! So brave to tell your story to all. Three cheers to the gluten free!!!

    Your photographs look beautiful!!

    Madelief xoxox

  13. Hi Katy, this resonates so much with me. I have been sick since 1999. So many tests, so many specialists, so much despair at not being given a diagnosis. In 2007 I was finally diagnosed with Lupus and fibromyalgia. It turns out the Lupus part wasn't right, but what I am trying to say, is that I know what it feels like to live with an invisible illness. On top of all the tiredness, headaches and aches and pains, I also have IBS. This has gotten worse in the past 12 months, and my whole digestive system is screaming out that something is wrong. I was told my blood test was negative for celiac disease, but I'm not convinced. I really want to give gluten free a go, but I'm worried I wont have much to eat. My diet is heavy in wheat products and I've never been a huge vegetable eater. I feel like I should at least give gluten free a go to see if it helps. At this point, I'm willing to try anything. You have inspired me to give it a go.

    Finally, I think you're amazing, and your photography is so beautiful. Did you teach yourself?

  14. How on earth did I miss this, Katy? I mean, I follow your blog! At any rate, I hung on every word. My naturopath is a firm believer in eliminating grain from the diet. She substitutes with complex carbs in the form of sweet potatoes. I lost a ton of weight, but everyone thought I was sick. I lost in my naturally thin face. I also eliminated sugar. But I thought I would put back on a few ponds, and now? I have ballooned out to a weight that should NOT be on the scales! It is criminal!

    I am so thrilled this is working for you. I pray that it continues to work and that you continue to heal.

    Oh, and the. Family, in part, belongs to my BFF who died. I invited them as my surrogates, it they were my surrogate nieces and nephews before. She was an only child. And my own Si kings and their families live miles and MILES away. So in my case, your friends are your family you. House for yourself, and I chose well! The other precious family are the children of another good friend who led a Bible Study at my BFFs house for years. She also worked for my BFFs husband as did her cute daughter who is pictured with her hubby and kids. Proving that in Christ, we really are family! And I feel that way about YOU!

    Love you to the moon and back, you precious, talented, and gluten-free girl!



  15. "I thought I would put back on a few PONDS?" That typo seems more like a Freudian slip. Ponds would be moe like it. Great BIG ponds! LOL.

    This IPAD does the zaniest things with my spelling or lack thou. ;-)

  16. I "inherited" not INVITED them. Sheesh! Maybe I should repost the whole thing! Ya, think?

  17. I give up!

    In IPAD speak:

    Si Kings = siblings

    House = Choose

    Moe = More

    In the words of Prince Harry's young girlfriend, Cressida, "Cringe de la Cringe!" Or in my favorite expression, "ARGH!"

  18. Dear Katy,

    Thank you for your sweet comment! I always look forward to see your replies! Hope the snow will melt soon and you will get your trip to the grocery store :-). Spring has sprung early in Holland. It feels so strange not to have had any snow and ice.

    Hope your Sunday will be quiet and inspirational! A big hug to you and your men!

    Madelief x

  19. Dear Katy, I'm so happy to hear this. Many people I know are feeling the benefits of a gluten-free diet. You don't have to have full--blown celiac disease to have a level of sensitivity to gluten. Autoimmune diseases in particular can stabilize considerably with the right dietary changes. Also, supporting healthy bowl flora in the form of probiotics is wise. Glad to visit your lovely blog--its been a while. The photography is ravishing.

  20. Katy, I love your photography! It just makes me all warm inside ... the dreamy quality of so many of your photos leaves me breathless. Thank you for sharing so generously!

  21. Dear Katy - I found your beautiful amazing photography journal a while ago now and have been mesmerised by your photos ever since. What a heart-warming story of your journey with some personal insight into your long term battle health. I feel privileged to have found you and wish you every happiness in your quest for good health, good food and excellent photography. Love Pat xoxo

  22. Have also been wheat free for over a year. (And my brother-in-law is a wheat and lentil farmer - I happily eat all the lentils...)

  23. Hi Katy ~ I was so happy to finally meet you !! I love the cake with the lavender pansies or violets. Did you make that beautiful cake? Guess what. I love Susan Branch and quotes and Queen Anne's Lace too. "You may be a kindred spirit afterall" as Anne (of Green Gables) would say.
    ~ Kathy


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