I’m Connie. This is My Story.

Connie L Veilleux, DailyForage.comI’m Connie. This is my story.

That was a horrible day … January 12, 2010. That day I left the doctor’s office with my 15-year-old son. We’d just been given the news. He had to go gluten-free and dairy-free. God, that was a horrible day. I thought it was going to be a relief to finally know why my son had been so sick for so many years. I thought it was going to be a relief that he didn’t have a life-threatening illness (of course it was!). I thought it was going to be a relief to know that he was going to feel better simply by changing his diet and taking some nutritional supplements. And initially it was a relief. For about 20 minutes in the doctor’s office.

Then we left the doctor’s office … out into the real world. And all I could see was the look on my son’s face of overwhelming devastation. All I could think was, “What the hell is gluten?????????”

I wanted to be optimistic, to take on this new challenge with determination and hope. We headed straight to the store the doctor had recommended where he knew gluten-free, dairy-free products were sold. We walked in, and all I could see were boxes of products that were unfamiliar and had strange ingredients, and my hope faded so quickly it was like someone had pulled my extension cord. I could have crumbled right then and there … if I hadn’t needed to stay strong for my son. As bad as it was for me, it was worse for him. So much worse.

Suddenly my thoughts caught up to where my teenage son’s thoughts had already taken him. No more foods that he’d depended on for years (even though we didn’t know they were slowly poisoning him). No pizza. No bagels with cream cheese. No chocolate shakes or ice cream slathered with hot fudge. No burgers with tender buns. No pretzels. No chocolate. Oh my. Oh my. My thoughts had finally synched with reality! How in the world are we going to do this?

But in that store we met some very friendly people who listened to our saga, who truly felt our pain (because they’d walked the same path), and who offered up sage, loving, empathetic advice.

We left the store with a little bit of knowledge, some resources to check out, a bag of pretzels, three bags of chocolate chips, a package of cookies, and a bag of gluten-free all-purpose flour (with ingredients that have never been listed on my Gold Medal flour bag). Okay … breathe. Okay … smile. Okay … my poor kid!!!

At the time, I hadn’t been told to go gluten and dairy free, just my son was put on this new plan. But when I looked at his face, oh my gosh his face, I couldn’t bare the anguish that he was clearly experiencing. So I committed to doing it with him. Support, you know? We could get through anything together. We were determined to be completely free of gluten and dairy for one month, until the next doctor’s appointment. We had to prove that this wasn’t going to be the answer (because it was going to be just too damn difficult to do this forever – we knew that already.)

We got home and shared the news with Mr. DF (aka my wonderful husband). I honestly don’t remember his reaction because I was so engrossed in trying to figure out what I was going to feed this kid for lunch. And dinner. And breakfast. And all the snacking that he did to keep himself filled up.

I’d been a baker for years. Not professionally. Not trained. But a pretty damn good baker, if I do say so myself. But I couldn’t just whip out my recipes and bake up cookies. Now I had to figure out how to use these “special” ingredients.

I remember clearly on night three of this one-month endeavor bolting awake out of a sound sleep with a brand new recipe in my head for gluten-free, dairy-free waffles. Where it came from I’ll never know … well, really I do know … it was a gift. From above. The next morning I made those waffles … and they were really, really good. Just as good as our regular ones. Could it be? Did I truly just make something that tasted good and was safe to eat? Yes, I had. Alleluia!!!!! (And my son loved those waffles so much, he proceeded to eat them for the next two years nearly every day for breakfast … even though I’d created many other safe and delicious choices during that time.)

The first weeks went by, slowly. I was finding some products that were successful, like the pretzels and chocolate chips we picked up on the first day. The flour and cookies, yeah, not so much. They actually ended up in the trash. Some things began to start making some sense. New things … like the emotional roller coaster of the seven stages of grieving … brought us to tears of frustration and denial and longing. But I read that this is normal. That one really does go through the grieving process when such a major life change occurs. We were fully in this.

Other things happened that had been fully anticipated by my son but had not yet crossed my mind. School parties. Hanging out at the local restaurant for a bite to eat with the Pep Band after the school game. Going over to a friend’s house for dinner and video games. These were the upcoming struggles I’d seen in my son’s eyes on that first day. All I was worried about was being able to feed him. The social aspects had not yet hit reality for me.

But we learned to work through those too. Until we knew whether we were in this for the long haul, or if one month would prove to us that this wasn’t really the right answer to the health troubles (even though we really wanted and needed those answers), we didn’t say anything to friends. We simply had everyone come to our house … where I could control the food. That worked. Yay, one successful teen-gathering down, potentially two and half years of high school get-togethers to manage.

When the month was done, and the doc asked my son how things had gone, I honestly didn’t know what he was going to say. I tried not to anticipate. I tried not to sit on the edge of my chair. I tried not to fill in any answers to questions for him. Then I heard my son say how much he was starting to feel better, (though he’d never admitted this to me yet). How this was the hardest thing he’d ever done in his life. How he would never eat gluten or dairy again.

And there was my answer. And forward we’ve gone ever since.

My son has stuck to his word. He’s never intentionally consumed any item with gluten or dairy since that first day. Yes, there have been some cross-contamination issues, but he’s been steadfast in knowing this is the right journey for him. And I do and will continue to support him fully forever.

It took me a bit (months) longer to become so convinced for myself. Because I’d started this journey in full support of my son, but not really thinking it had any relevance to my personal health, I wandered easily off the “safe food” path often. I would cheat when he wasn’t around, then feel not so good physically (and emotionally) afterward. Though I’d been plagued with not the best health all my life, I still hadn’t made the connection (wow, I can be hard-headed sometimes). My son would politely point out how my ailments, i.e. chronic headaches, gut issues, mild joint discomfort, would always resurface when I strayed. I started paying more attention to how I felt when I stayed true to the GF-DF lifestyle. It was good. I started feeling really good. I finally buckled down to a dedicated gluten-free, dairy-free journey for myself, and I found that all of my health issues were eliminated as well. Now I too will never return to a “free range” lifestyle of eating gluten- and dairy-filled foods. Though he and I never were tested for Celiac Disease (it would have been too damaging to his health to have him reintroduce gluten and dairy for testing purposes), we live this healthy lifestyle by necessity, not by fad or trendy choice. It is our “normal” now, and we’re good with that (with the exception of an occasional longing).

As I shared earlier, our journey started in January 2010. Daily Forage was born in May 2011 after my son convinced me that I had a story to tell and people just like us to help. We’d been through it all and have come out better on the other side. I created Daily Forage to hopefully help others make that transition from “normal” to a new “normal” with less struggles, questions, confusion, and better health.

How did I decide on the name Daily Forage for this website? The Oxford Dictionary defines forage as:

Forage – (of a person or animal) Search widely for food or provisions. 

We are constantly searching, researching, and discovering safe foods and products that will enrich our lives. It seemed only fitting that this be our mantra.

In addition to living a gluten-free, dairy-free lifestyle, I am also peanut-free (oh the migraines), and truly allergic (in the anaphylaxis sense) to shellfish and iodine, and am very sensitive to soy and eggs. My son is free of gluten, dairy, peanuts, sunflower seeds, xanthan gum, papaya, and most recently baking soda. So you can see, we have diversity in our lives.

I’d like to be a part of your journey and I hope you’ll be a part of mine. I don’t really believe that we’re ever done growing, which means I might have questions along the way, and so will you. Please ask them. That’s what I‘m here for – to make your journey … your daily forage … easier, safe, less confusing – and more delicious!

Safe food is a journey … Thrive!™

Connie

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