Swan Lake & Peanut Butter: When the Ballet Isn’t Safe

SwanLake2I’m so, so thankful I didn’t end up in the ER yesterday!

The original plan was to watch a friend of mine who I’ve known since I was about five-years-old marry the love of her life.  But due to the potluck nature of the reception and too much of a risk of having a run-in with peanuts or mushrooms (didn’t want to be the party guest who left in an ambulance), I had to settle for sending them happy thoughts and congratulations from elsewhere.  The tagged pics on Facebook are beginning to make their way into my feed, and the new Mr. and Mrs. look happy and adorable.

Plan B: a girls’ date to the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of Swan Lake.  While the main reason I wanted to go to the ballet was because I’d never seen Swan Lake performed, it seemed like a safe option for me due to the no-eating-anytime-anywhere-during-the-performance rule.  Unfortunately, the older gentleman sitting directly behind me thought this rule didn’t apply to him as he uncouthly cracked open is Tupperware and chowed down on his PB and J as the orchestra began to play the music for the second act.

I darted around in my seat to confront the offender.  “Is that PEANUTBUTTER?  I’m allergic!”

He began to close the lid while looking puzzled, but by then it was too late.  I tore out of the theater as I felt my throat beginning to close up, Mom and Shannon following close behind.  We wouldn’t be seeing Swan Lake, after all.

I took a Benadryl (the liquid kind, kicks in faster if you put them under your tough) as Mom, Shannon, and several of the employees stood with me in the lobby.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting.  First one didn’t work; means it’s a serious allergy.  Second pill didn’t work; anaphylactic shock is of real concern.  Third one, taking its time; now we’re in crisis mode, and it means using the Epi-Pen followed by a call to 911 and a ride in an ambulance are the next step if things don’t improve.  And quickly.

Shannon later told me that she was so scared all she could pray was, “HELP!”

Finally, the third Benadryl hit with full force—my throat relaxed, I stopped gagging, and I felt like I was about to fall asleep standing up.  To everyone’s relief, we were able to go home instead of visiting with the doctor in the ER.  A major bummer that I still haven’t seen Swan Lake (only made it through the first act), but I felt so thankful to be going home.  Thankful to be alive.

Skipped out on the wedding to avoid peanuts but the day still ended up involving a major allergic reaction.  Drat.  Makes me feel scared to go anywhere.

As for the gentleman who couldn’t wait to eat his sandwich, I wish I could explain to him how even though some of those seemingly arbitrary rules like don’t eat in the ballet, opera, or library might seem dumb and optional, it’s those very rules that make them safe for people with food allergies.  I have to choose my outing based not where I’d most like to go but on where there won’t be food.  Food-free locations are the only places I can safely go.  So, please, just wait to eat your sandwich next time.  Cracking it open can not only ruin someone’s trip to the ballet and put their very life in danger, but when people don’t follow rules about food I can feel my world, where I can safely go, tightening in on me.  My options becoming more and more limited because you can’t wait a few minutes to eat.


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Disney: Cruising with Food Allergies & Celiac (Part 2)

As I mentioned yesterday, my future in-laws took Mr. Munger, my mom, my sister, and I all on a Disney Cruise in September.  And it was amazing because I was actually able to eat.  Not to mention, it was also just a lot of fun.

We left from Vancouver, B.C. and went down to L.A. with a two-day stop in San Francisco to see the sights.

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Because it was a Disney Cruise, there are Mickey Mouse heads tactfully and tastefully hidden everywhere.  This Mickey head is much more blatantly obvious than most.

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Our ship!  This is in Vancouver.

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While you’re not bombarded with Disney Characters, they do make guest appearances    sometimes.  This was during the “Sailing Away” party.

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My sister, Shannon, in the hot tub.  This was before we figured out how to turn it on.

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The closest thing to a ball on the ship is Pirate Night.  Everyone dresses up, and we were extra dressed up because De, my future mother-in-law, has mad skills when it comes to costumes.  Shannon and I picked out the fabric we wanted, explained how we wanted it to look, and De did the rest.

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Mr. Munger and I on deck during the pirate party.  We were dressed as pirates on a ship as it was in the ocean and there were even fireworks; it was awesome!

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Lovely San Francisco.  Mom took this nice picture of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Food!  I ate so much wonderful, gluten-free, allergy-free food while on the ship.  After having a waitstaff who truly acted like they enjoyed taking care of me and helping me to have a great trip (rather than acting like I was an inconvenience!), I think I’m spoiled.  Very spoiled.

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Shannon eating gluten-free fries and a burger on deck.  It was beautiful but pretty windy!

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Mickey Mouse!  Such a good trip.


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Disney: Cruising with Food Allergies & Celiac (Part 1)

2012-08-14 05.33.11Mr. Munger is going to be finished with his BA in December and to celebrate, his parents decided to take him on his very first cruise.  Being the sweet guy that he is, he asked if my family and I could join them (my mom is a single parent, so there really hasn’t been the time or money to even do something like camping in years, and we were all dearly in need of a vacation).  And to my utter surprise, his parents said yes!

While I was thrilled to be going on my very first cruise, I was also pretty worried.  I pictured myself ending up like the mariner dying of dehydration, only I’d be feeling hungry on a cruise ship surrounded by buffets and fancy restaurants (not exactly the same, but you get my drift).  It’s not that I didn’t want to go, but due to my oh so many food allergies and celiac disease I’m extremely hard to feed.  And the extreme lack of grocery stores while at sea was worrisome.  What if they didn’t have anything I could eat?  What if there was cross-contamination?  What if I got glutened?

Well, our trip last month went great.  It turns out that I was worried for nothing because  traveling on a Disney Cruise, at least for someone with food foes, is a truly magical experience.

What the Ship Was Like:

The ship was stunning (don’t worry, it doesn’t look like a little kid who really loves Mickey’s bedroom and it doesn’t feel like you’re trapped inside of Small World for a week–imagine an upscale, tasteful hotel).  To my surprise, there is even a Chihuly chandelier that didn’t look a bit out of place, but somehow the ship still felt comfortable. 

Lots of people walked around in shorts and flip-flops during the day, and while dinners were dressier, it wasn’t overwhelming (imagine you’re going to a nicer restaurant, one where you might grab a black skirt or a short-sleeve button-up but nothing super fancy).  Although, a few of the littlest diners sported Disney princess dresses while they ate.

I was also concerned I’d be bored, which was not a problem for one moment.  There are pools, hot tubs (an adults only area that lights up at night), a theater with Broadway-style performances every night, a movie theater with first-run films (and not just Disney movies), an outdoor screen where you can watch movies under the stars, a gym (but really, who works out on vacation?), fantastically-themed lounges, comedy shows, magic shows and ventriloquists, live music, coffee shops, and so much more.  There are also special areas of the ship for children, pre-teens, and teens to play and hang out.  And, of course, if you just want to sit on the deck, read a book, and watch the waves that’s just fine, too.

One of the best things about a cruise is you can make it whatever kind of vacation you want it to be–fast-paced or leisurely.

How I was Able to Eat:

I would’ve had fun on the cruise even without my food allergies and celiac disease, but the fact that I am hard to feed–very hard to feed–just made cruising an even better option for me.  It meant I was able to travel, something I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do again.

One of the things I get the most tired of is explaining all of my many, many food foes to waiters again and again and again.  On a Disney Cruise, you’re assigned two servers and a head waiter.  Every night you’ll eat dinner at a different one of the restaurants on board, but because your waitstaff rotates with you, there’s no need to explain all of your food issues again. 

And every night, as my dinner was winding down, I’d be given the menu for the following night’s dinner so that I could order in advance.  That way the chef had lots of time to figure out how to make my meal and I didn’t have to wait longer for my food.  And if I didn’t feel like going out to eat, I actually even able to order room service without any problems.  (It’s included in the overall price of the cruise, so you can have breakfast in bed every day if you want.)

I was also extremely impressed with how knowledgeable the waitstaff was when it came to celiac and food allergies.  And how careful everyone from my waiter and the cook to the people handling room service were about cross-contamination.  I never got sick once.  And I didn’t feel like they saw me as a problem; instead, I always felt like the staff enjoyed helping me to be able to relax and have a good vacation and they saw it as a privilege that they got to help make that happen.

Dreaming of Cruising:

It’s only been a couple of weeks but I already miss the cruise, specifically the food. And even with my 10 new food allergies I wouldn’t be worried about the Disney folks not being able to feed me.  Disney Cruising is the only way I’d ever want to travel somewhere because I know it’d be relaxing, my food foes wouldn’t get in the way, and I could focus on just enjoying a vacation.

There’s a little talk that the in-laws might send Mr. Munger and I on another Disney Cruise as a belated honeymoon /one-year-anniversary (we decided we didn’t want to take a trip directly after getting married because it’d be too much busy-ness).  So, perhaps, in about two years I’ll be able to go on another cruise.  I really hope so.  Besides, I think the ship misses me.