Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What if?

Fantasy Crocuses, watercolor and ink on paper, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

What if crocuses bloomed in a rainbow of pastels? Would the first flowers of spring spoil us? Too much too soon? Perhaps we would lose the appreciation for those first bursts of golden yellow set against the greys and almost colorless browns of the tail end of winter. Knowing that the lavendars and deep purples are just days away. And finding the delicacy of the scattered white crocuses. They appear so delicate yet they are damn strong to break through and bloom before winter is finished with us.

Sometimes I get caught up in the what ifs... What if my celiac was diagnosed 20 yrs ago? What if I didn't have celiac disease? Where would I be? What could I have accomplished? Not always the most productive way to spend my time. But, the positive side of this line of thinking is it surfaces what's important... where I really want to spend my time, and the appreciation that I do know now. It is pretty easy to follow food restrictions when you can see how bad it was and how good its become. And I can see it not as a struggle or loss - but a gain.

Through my art I can create a garden in whatever colors I imagine without losing an appreciation for the reality. Through my celiac experience I can create a life of good health, vitality and gratefulness and learn from where I have been.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Perfection on a Plate

copyright Erin Rogers Pickering, watercolor and ink on paper

I found perfection on a plate at BabyCakes in NYC.

Warm, cozy, inviting, charming, with such a friendly staff and - the cupcakes are out of this world! The gloomy, rainy day suddenly seemed warm and sunny. Guess it’s the light pink walls, soft glow of light, the divine baking scent and lovely staff. And knowing the cupcakes are gluten free so I could safely go crazy!

I had a chocolate brownie cupcake with vanilla frosting topped with delicate chocolate chips. Words can't adequately describe the velvety texture, the rich chocolate flavor, the sweet, but not overly so, divine frosting. Heaven on a plate. A perfect cupcake. I sketched it and then I ate it, giving me time to appreciate and savor the experience.

I have an extra appreciation for BabyCakes for having Pacific rice milk for my coffee... A truly gluten free rice milk.

If you are in NYC its worth the trip downtown.

  • BabyCakes NYC
  • Friday, March 20, 2009

    My personal statement

    Pears flour sack towel from my watercolor painting,
    copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    Recently I joined a celiac forum and I was prompted, while creating my profile, for my personal statement. My first thought was I didn't have one. Then I realized something I have been telling myself for most of the last year, as a whole new world of good health and happiness opened up to me.

    "I am gluten free, therefore I can..."

    Wow. "I can" Those are powerful words!

    I am gluten free therefore I can...
    Live without migraines
    Eat chocolate
    Drink red wine
    Be without bone pain
    Keep up with my daughter
    Face the day with a smile
    Go barefoot
    Wear heels
    Bake – I CAN bake
    Bake bread, muffins, cookies, cupcakes that are tasty to everyone
    Run again
    Paint, Draw, Create
    See possibility
    Think clearly
    Feel joy
    Feel healthy
    Be energetic

    This list could go on and on. Because when I went gluten free I truly hit the jackpot!

    Click here for my FREE printable Gluten Free Blessing

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Enjoying St Patrick’s Day Gluten Free

                          "St Patrick's Celebration" rough sketch, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    I gave up beer 20 years ago on the suggestion of a neurologist, a migraine specialist, and one in the long line of specialists I have seen for my migraines. He was unable to ‘cure’ me but I did learn 3 things from him.

    1. I always fall into 2 – 3% of patients that have the most extreme or rare reactions to medications. Beta-blockers did not help my migraines, but did initiate weird reactions from my heart. I got off of them as soon as possible.

    2. I am good at biofeedback (and as a result meditation). I learned the biofeedback technique at his office and it has served me well dealing with chronic headaches and pain.

    3. The Doctor said his patients were finding beer to be a migraine trigger so best not to drink it. I tested the theory – and promptly gave up beer, as it was clear it was a migraine trigger for me. They had no idea at that time it was the gluten.

    Over the last 20 years I have mostly lost my taste for beer but remained a fan of cider. I was so happy to discover that Magner’s Irish Cider is naturally gluten-free.

    Magner's Irish Cider is the perfect way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day and my Irish heritage. Imported from Ireland, gluten-free, delicious, crisp, and not too sweet, with a refreshing apple flavor. Serve icy cold. In my opinion it can’t be beat. I look forward to one (or two) this evening with my husband.

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009


                                  "Running" ink on paper, from my sketchbook, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    I ran regularly for over 15 yrs. I usually ended a run by icing my knees, and often taking a nap. One 6k race I collapsed at the finish line. People asked why I ran. My answer was always the same… "because I can".

    I couldn't describe the high... The release, the freedom, the joy, the order it created in my thoughts, finding resolutions, or making peace with what couldn't change. Being grounded, alive, refreshed. It was my moving meditation even as it became more and more difficult to do.

    Until Sunday it had been over 4 years since I went for a run. Broken ankle, torn calf, surgery, back problems, sciatica, foot pain, joint pain, bone pain and constant fatigue made it seem like running would forever be the thing I used to do. I didn't realize until recently how much gluten consumption was destroying my ability to run.

    Until Sunday. We went as a family to the cross-country path at the high school.  And I ran. It never felt so good. I didn't go very far but I learned a long time ago that the tortoise always gets to the finish line. It is the beginning again.  And I am still on a high from that run.

    I run because I am healthy
    I run because I am gluten free.
    I run because I can!

    Friday, March 6, 2009

    Surviving Gluten

    "Vieques Sunset", acrylic on canvas, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    I'm back. I have passed through the black hole of gluten effect.

    It was if a switch was flipped late yesterday afternoon – and the skies parted. It reminded me of the painting I did of a Vieques sunset… the sun splashing through the clouds; streaks of color breaking through the grey. Whenever I look at this painting I am on that beach again... Relaxed, peaceful, and in awe of the beauty of the sky.

    Today I feel like a million dollars. It was a rough few days but I am that much more appreciative of all that I have. I woke up happy, grateful, energized and pain free.
    Gluten free is a beautiful thing.

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    Staying Positive during a setback

                "Holiday Detroit Delay" pencil in sketchbook,  copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    I bake my own breads and muffins, cook all my own food, keep separate toasters, spatulas, serving spoons etc, read labels obsessively, and shop in special stores. And still sometimes I get gluten. It can be very discouraging. Not sure where it came from... Was it cross contamination? Was it inaccurate labeling? Did I make an error? How to prevent it from happening again?

    The stomachaches start, the brain fog rolls in, the headaches come roaring back, and there is the crankiness that makes the smallest interactions unpleasant. And still I wonder where it came from… so I can avoid repeating it.

    Trying to not get depressed. And certainly reminding myself to stay on track. I return to the most basic foods until this passes and I can start feeling well again. Usually it takes me 3 to 5 days from last gluten consumption. So as I write this I have 2 more days. The cleaner and safer I eat between now and then, the better I'll feel.

    It can be discouraging, but I know there is an end in sight.

    I used to cover the Detroit metro area in addition to my NYC accounts. I would fly there once a month and see as many clients as possible in 2 or 3 days. Traveling monthly was fine until I became a mom. Then it was torture to me. I hated leaving her. Hell, I hated leaving her for the day to go into my NYC office everyday. So flying and any associated delays drove me mad.

    I did 2 things to stay positive. First, I spoke to my boss about trading the territory so I could be in NYC only. Secondly, I brought my sketchbook on every trip until the time came that I could transition away from traveling. I sketched in the airport, on the planes and in the evening in my hotel room. Sketching focused my thoughts away from the negative and gave back to me.

    I try to apply that to my gluten free life, and recovery... What can I set in action to change and heal? And what can I do to focus on the positive aspects while I heal? I took out my travel sketchbook last night when I was feeling particularly low and recalled a 3+ hour delay in Detroit right around the holidays. I didn’t quite capture my fellow travelers but I did have fun.