Review: Chicago

Yes, Chicago:  The Windy City, Chi-town, the City of the Big Shoulders.  I returned from there Monday and, let me tell you, it was an amazing trip!

It was my first time to Chicago and it all came about because I started a bucket list a couple years ago.  Most of the items are travel and learning items but this year I decided it was time to cross some of these things off.  I am turning forty in a few short months and I wanted to at least cross a couple items off.  It’s always been my dream to go to Wrigley Field and to Soldier Field (I am a die hard Cubs and Bears fan) and since they are on my bucket list, it was going to happen.

I asked my dad to go with me at first and he was excited.  Then, a while later, I decided to ask my mom as well.  I love my parents and I want to make memories with them.  Mom was hesitant but chose to go and I’m glad she did.

Last Thursday we made the trek to Denver to board our plane for a short two hour flight to Chicago.  I was excited to say the least.  And then the Midwest weather got in the way and we circled Chicago for a while…then got diverted to Kansas City.  After waiting on the plane for almost three hours we finally got back into the air and landed in Chicago only to wait another two and a half hours to de-plane.  I wanted to kiss the ground in Chicago!

I am a member of the Grand Junction Lions Club and our first stop on Friday was to Lions Club International for a tour.  We went straight from there, via our trusty Uber driver, to Wrigley Field.  We had the fortune to take Michigan Avenue to the ballpark and got our first peak of Lake Michigan.

When we got to Wrigley, I was ecstatic!  I actually skipped once inside.  My dream was coming true!  I had written Wrigley Field ahead of time regarding gluten free eats and they had a diner that had buns for hamburgers and hot dogs, although this day they were out of hamburger buns.  Not to worry, I wanted a ballpark hotdog!  Since the fries are not in a dedicated fryer they were careful to give us kettle chips instead.  Pair that with a hard cider and I was in heaven!

In front of Wrigley Field

After the game we decided to walk a mile to Chicago’s Pizza.  I had read reviews of this place online and they were great.  Their gluten free pizza had high reviews so we decided to give them a try.  The atmosphere was cozy and warm and we were warmly greeted.  We told the server that we were gluten free and he proceeded to tell us about the gluten free offerings.  We decided to have cheesy garlic bread and then ordered a stuffed pizza.  They brought out a little appetizer breadsticks and then the fun began.  The cheesy garlic bread was crispy with a nice layer of cheese and a hint of garlic.  Dip it in the tomato sauce and it was amazing.  Then the pizza.  Let me tell you, if you EVER get to Chicago, you have to stop here.  The pizza was about four or five inches thick and the cheese strung out forever!  It was the best tasting pizza I’ve ever had.  By the way, they will ship pizzas nationwide and it’s going to be my little treat from time to time!  Pictures don’t do the pizza justice but you can see the goodness!

Chicago's Pizza Breadsticks Chicago's Pizza Chicago's Pizza Cheese Garlic Bread Gluten Free Pizza First slice! Gooey, yummy pizza

The next day we decided to venture to the Navy Pier.  It’s a beautiful area with shops and restaurants as well as an amusement park.  They give boat tours and dinner/lunch tours as well.  We started the day at Harry Caray‘s and weren’t disappointed.  Dad had the burger with a gluten free bun and said it was amazing.  Mom and I had the fish tacos and they were the best I ever had.  The tilapia was seasoned just right, the sauce added a little kick and the salsas finished it off.  We wandered the pier, having a mid afternoon cocktail after our boat tour, and then settled on Bubba Gump‘s for dad’s birthday dinner.  The server was helpful and I decided on the shrimp and veggie skewers with jasmine rice and mom and dad had the Accidental Fish & Shrimp Broiled Mahi Mahi over a bed of Jasmine Rice.  My meal was so refreshing and done just right and mom and dad said that their meal was great as well.

Harry Carey's Burger Fish Tacos Navy Pier Shrimp and Veggie Skewers Accidental Fish and Shrimp

The last Chicago item on my bucket list was to see the Chicago Bears play at Soldier Field.  While the Bears didn’t have the stadium food that Wrigley had, it still had a few options.  The brats were gluten free (no buns) as were the tortilla chips and the nacho cheese.  They also have popcorn and Redbridge Beer as well as hard ciders.  We had enough to eat and got to see the Bears get stomped but it was well worth going.  That night we ate in the hotel and they were so good about knowing what was gluten free and had it marked on the menu.  My chicken was done just perfect and the potato-bacon hash was amazing!

At the Bears GameChicken and Potato Bacon Hash

The plane ride home was without incident which I was thankful for!

I’ve read that if you are a foodie that Chicago is a place to visit and I wasn’t disappointed.  Their gluten free foods were delish and I do plan on going back.  In the meantime, I will have my pizza delivered from Chicago!

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The Journey

It all began with my dad.  It was June of 2009 and dad’s health had been going downhill for quite some time.  He didn’t have energy, was looking pale and, as a good stubborn German man, refused to go to the doctor and had been refusing for months.  I will never forget the Sunday that we had done a trip through the orchards and when mom and dad dropped me off, as usual, I invited them up to my condo which is on the second story.  Dad flat out said “no” because he didn’t have the energy.  I had gone over there a few days later and dad could hardly walk across the living room without stopping to gather his energy so he could keep going.  He had turned into an old, old man in front of our eyes.  My brother emailed me, asking if he needed to fly in from Washington state.  I told him no…but I honestly didn’t think dad was going to make it.  Later, he would tell us that he wasn’t sure he was going to live much longer.

A couple of weeks later I received a phone call while I was at work.  It was my mom and my dad had driven himself to the ER from his part time job at a golf course.  They had found a hernia and would have to do surgery.  When they did the pre surgery blood tests, he came back severely anemic and ordered an upper and lower GI to find out where they internal bleeding was.  Otherwise, why would you have such severe anemia?  The gastroenterologist did the tests and told mom that they biopsied a portion of his upper GI but he was pretty sure it was Celiac Disease.

What?

My mom is super resourceful so started doing research so when the test came back positive for Celiac Disease, she was ready to rock n roll.  Everything got put into a box and I was the proud recipient of TONS of food.  Mom started baking and cooking gluten free, dad was mad at the world.  Here he was, in his 60’s.  He was already a diabetic and had a thyroid condition…why this too?  No bread, no pasta, no beer…Father’s Day was right around the corner so I did my due diligence as his daughter and found gluten free beer.  It was no Bud Light but it worked!

We would later find out that all of these autoimmune diseases work hand in hand and when you have one, you are very likely to have another.

Mom’s research took her to find that if you have a relative with Celiac Disease, you have a 1 in 22 chance of having the disease too. A few months later I took a blood test and it  came back positive for Celiac Disease.  I spoke with my doctor and she told me that as long as I didn’t have the symptoms, to keep on living my life the way I was.  (BTW, this is NOT correct.  If you are diagnosed with Celiac Disease you must IMMEDIATELY start eating gluten free).

As time went on, I starting having symptoms.  I had always been anemic but now I was having intestinal issues.  I would eat and then head straight to the bathroom because it went through me so fast.  I would have severe cramps and would go home and just curl up on my couch, praying they would go away.  I was bloated and had no energy.

I finally decided it was time to go gluten free.  Should be easy, right?  My mom and dad had just gone through it and I was sure it would be easier for me.

I went through the purging process as well, taking food out of my pantry and donating it or giving to it friends.  I then headed to the grocery store, Vitamin Cottage, actually.  I will NEVER forget standing in the pasta aisle, looking at the mac and cheese and wondering which box of $5 mac and cheese was actually any good.  Which $6 pasta was any good.  I was overwhelmed and, before I could start crying, I bought a box of mac and cheese and went home.  It was overwhelming and I cried all the way home.  The mac and cheese sucked.  It was expensive so I ate it all and cried more.

The next day I put on my big girl panties and went to City Market.  I bought a few things because a girl’s gotta eat.  I asked mom for help.  I tried things and figured out which ones weren’t good, although I’d eat it anyway because GF food is EXPENSIVE.  Most breads were only good for toast, buns were hard, eating out was horrible and still can be bad.  It was FRUSTRATING.

But I’ve lived and I’ve figured out what is good, what isn’t, where is safe to eat, where make my tummy hurt and in this, I’ve found friends who are going through the same thing.  It’s so much easier when you have people who know exactly what you are going through.

And that’s my journey, so far.  I know there is more to do, this is my platform and there are many more people who feel alone in this world, or who haven’t been diagnosed with Celiac although they’ve been diagnosed with everything under the sun.  And the true cause is Celiac Disease.

I ask that if you know someone who has Celiac Disease and feels alone in the world, share this blog.  If you have a question for me, ask.  I’m here to help, I’m going on this journey for a reason.

Me and Dad at a Broncos vs. Bears game

Me and Dad at a Broncos vs. Bears game

2014: The Year of No Excuses

Where did 2013 go?  It seems like just yesterday we were welcoming in the New Year and now it’s just a few days from being over.

With a new year typically come those pesky resolutions.  Many people will make the resolution and within a month will have forgotten about it.  That’s why I challenge you to make a goal, not a resolution, for the entire year and make 2014 the year of “No Excuses”.

I can’t claim that this idea is mine; it actually came from the company I work for.  They challenged us to not make excuses for things we “couldn’t” do and make them happen.  They weren’t just talking professionally; they were talking mostly about personal goals and this all stemmed from Team Hoyt.

If you’ve never heard of Team Hoyt, Google them, it’s an inspirational story for all.  The story goes like this:  Rick Hoyt was born with his umbilical cord around his neck which resulted in him having cerebral palsy and being a quadriplegic.  When Rick was younger, his friend, who was recently wheelchair bound was having a fundraiser race and Rick told his Dad, Dick, that he wanted to race.  Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair through the race but Dick had never run more than just a few blocks.  They did the race, and another, and another and to this day they have finished Iron Man Competitions (a triathlon where you swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles) as well as marathons and many other races.  Dick does all of this WITH his son: pushing him in the wheelchair, pulling him in a raft and biking with him.  Oh, and by the way, they have come in ½ an hour short of a marathon record.

No excuses.  Dick just gets out there and does it because his son loves it.  Dick didn’t know how to swim and learned to swim.  He hadn’t rode a bike in years and got back on a bike.  He couldn’t run any distance and got out there and DID it.

I had a “no excuse” moment about three years ago.  I was having a rough time that fall and decided that I wasn’t getting any younger: it was time to run a 5k.  My friend, Cheryl, had been telling me for years that I should run a 5k.  I kept making excuses:  I couldn’t run far, my knees are bad, etc., etc.  But that fall something changed and I knew that it was now or never.  I asked her when the next 5k was and there was one in eight weeks, the Turkey Trot.  Upon the advice of my friend Gabe, I followed the training program of Hal Higdon, which was a good, slow start training program.  I trained.  I followed the program and even on days when running was the last thing I wanted to do, I ran.  Cheryl took me under her wing and took me running hills with her running friends.  She called and texted asking how training was going.  And when money ran short and I couldn’t afford to pay for the race, my parents stepped in and paid for the race.  They even bought me running pants so I would actually look like a runner!

So, when it came to the day of the race, I had no excuses.  I was trained, looked like a runner and Cheryl even came and picked me up.  My parents were there to cheer me on.  Now, all I had to do was run.  Was I fast?  Not really.  Did I finish?  Yes.  Was I proud, excited and sore the next day?  Yes.  I put all of the excuses behind me, had friends and family to push me and take away anything that could be an excuse and just did it.  The best part is that running is addictive and I have brought another friend (Shawna) in to run with me too and I keep running races.  My most recent Turkey Trot was my fastest time ever for a race and I plan on keeping on.  No excuses.

So, make this your year of no excuses.  What is something you’ve always wanted to do but “couldn’t”?  What is something that you “didn’t have time for”?  What is something you’ve been scared to do because it was new?  Take the words “can’t”, “couldn’t”, “don’t have time” and other negatives out of your vocabulary.  Make 2014 a year where you can say “I did all of these new things and I’m a better person for it.”  Happy New Year!

Warrior Dash 2012

Warrior Dash 2012

Children With Hope Race 2011

Children With Hope Race 2011

Sweetheart Race 2011

Sweetheart Race 2011

Warrior Dash 2013

Warrior Dash 2013