It’s not a lifestyle choice you bastards.

by Veronica on October 19, 2016

in Life, Soapbox

Shutting the fuck up is gluten free. Why don't you add that to your diet you cunt.

Back at the beginning of the year, I had some new health problems pop up.

I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, so feeling dreadful a lot of the time isn’t abnormal, but this was New and Different, and actually pretty shit.

Between March and May, I had a whole round of blood tests done to check my health out. Why was I more than exhausted all of the time? Why was my hair falling out in handfuls? Why were my joints hurting beyond what was normal? Why did I feel so generally fucking awful without a new and good reason?

We couldn’t tell. I was anaemic, and iron supplements weren’t fixing it. My thyroid levels were elevated, and then they weren’t. My hair continued to fall out, and I was barely making it through my days.

As a last ditch effort, my doctor told me to give up gluten. “It probably isn’t coeliacs, but quit gluten for 6 weeks and see how you feel. If you get better, don’t eat any more gluten.”

It was our last option, but there it was. Quit gluten and see how you feel. He didn’t want to do any more tests because what else could we test for? (Coeliac markers maybe, but he didn’t want to.)

So I quit gluten.

That was back in May. I’ve eaten gluten properly once since then, and I spent the night head down in the toilet afterwards.

Gluten doesn’t agree with me. It makes me dreadfully sick. I get really spacey and my brain stops working well. I develop a rotten headache and reflux. I get nausea, and then all of my joints hurt and I get really angry. It lasts three days before I start feeling better after I get glutened.

It’s miserable is what I’m saying.

And yet here I am, justifying why I don’t eat gluten.

This is not a choice I made, but it is what it is. Other people don’t see it like that though. Go into a cafe and ask to not be made sick, and you’re some sort of evil orthorexic clean eating demanding bitch who wants to make their life hard. “Gluten Free Foodie Wankers” are the butt of all the jokes, as the tellers sit there in their bodies which work well, digesting whatever they feed themselves.

Of course they’re all very quick to point out that “We don’t mean people who actually have coeliacs, you know. Just everyone else? Right? Because they’re just being arseholes about it.”

Recent studies have shown Non-Coeliac Gluten Intolerance is a real thing, suffered by real people, with real symptoms, and I’m fucking pissed off, because everyone still acts like I’m making their life hard when I ask them to not put fucking breadcrumbs on my plate accidentally.

Being gluten free is not fun, or easy. Unless you live in the mecca of upmarket cafes, finding something to eat when you’re ou,t which isn’t another lettuce salad with no dressing, is a pain in the arse. You miss out on cake at parties. Actually, you miss out on everything at parties, because you can’t trust that your gluten free salad hasn’t had a contaminated spoon in it.

It’s HARD and it’s frustrating, and I fucking hate it. It’s not a choice I got to make. I can’t eat mostly gluten free but then have a cupcake on the weekend as a naughty treat. It takes work and planning to be gluten free.

I mostly don’t mind this, because I really like not feeling any shittier than I already do with the EDS. But I am so so so fucking sick of being asked to produce my credentials every time I mention I can’t eat gluten, or having people roll their eyes at me when I ask if their hot chocolate is gluten free (it usually isn’t) when I just want a hot drink at a coffee shop.

I know it makes more work, and I know it’s a hassle – trust me, I KNOW.

But for fuck’s sake, don’t make it harder for me.

People behave like they’re the food police, like they get to have a say what other people put in their mouths. And you know what? It’s bullshit.

Stop it. Stop questioning people over their dietary choices, or needs.

Stop making us feel like shit for needing to avoid certain foods.

And for fuck’s sake, can companies please stop cross contaminating all of the chocolate with wheat. It’s making it REALLY hard to not be a grumpy git when I can’t even eat plain chocolate.



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It’s an appealing thought. Take some relatively cheap ingredients, mix them together and in a certain way and BAM, low cost laundry butter.

The premise of the recipe is grated coconut oil soap with a 0% superfat, combined with hot water, borax, and washing soda. Mix them together, let sit until cool, and then stick blend until you’ve got a creamy emulsified soap “butter” for washing laundry. Add some essential oils at the end for smell and there you go.

Common knowledge was that this miracle butter only required 1TB in an entire load of washing. Reputed to clean everything, it was supposedly gentler on clothes and machines, and basically a miracle in disguise.

Laundry Butter

Laundry Butter

Of course I wanted to try the laundry butter myself, so I read a lot about it – both from the people who loved it and swore by it, and the people who didn’t.

I read A LOT.

I fall down Internet rabbit holes all the time and I like to research things, but despite what all the naysayers were saying, I felt I had to try it myself.

So I made some.

After a few weeks of using only laundry butter, I upped the amount we were using in the machine to 1c per load. It was … okay I guess.

But there was still occasionally a funky smell in the armpits of t-shirts, and stains didn’t seem to be coming out. Plus washing needed to be hung out immediately post-wash, otherwise the clothes smelled musty, quite quickly.

I wasn’t prepared to blame the butter though. We’d recently switched to a new machine and reviews weren’t glowing, but we pushed through.

The homemade butter was cheap you see, and we were getting the business off the ground still. One kid was still in nappies, and money at the checkout was tight.

Right there was the upside. Money was tight and not having to spend $20/month on detergent was a god-send.

I kept using the butter, adding in a soap stick stain remover when I had stubborn oil stains on clothes which needed shifting.

Look, I’m a soapmaker. I am frequently oil and mica covered. My clothes get grotty. I have three children and a husband. We garden. We play outside. We don’t live in a sterile environment and our clothes are part of that.

I wanted to love the laundry butter so much. I NEEDED to love the laundry butter, because I needed to believe it was working.

It was not working.

But I hung in there. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t something I could change, or fix.

We switched to all warm washes, just in case. I added more butter to washes. I added eucalyptus essential oil to the rinse water whenever I remembered, to help.

It was only when I started having to use dishwashing liquid as a pre-wash stain treatment on oil-spotted shirts and yoga pants I finally saw the light. My home-made laundry butter was not working and I couldn’t pretend it was anymore.

I wanted to love the laundry butter, but I couldn’t anymore.

12 months of intense testing on a five person household and I couldn’t do it anymore.

I went out and bought proper laundry detergent instead. Super sensitive and unscented style, to cater for Nat and Evelyn, who both get contact dermatitis.

And 3 weeks after switching back to commercial detergent, I can safely say that my experiment was a giant failure.

Laundry butter did not work properly. I tried really hard to brainwash myself into believing it did. I have soft water. I did serious testing. But I cannot claim honestly that home made laundry butter or laundry powder actually gets clothes clean.

My clothes feel different since stopping the experiment.

Because the buildup in my clothes was a slow and gradual process, I didn’t notice it happening until I washed everything in commercial detergent and suddenly they felt different.

Water will clean clothes of most dirt. I brainwashed myself into believing that a little bit of coconut oil soap, borax, and washing soda was making a difference when it wasn’t.

So there it is.

12 months of testing over.

Laundry butter does not work, and as much as I wanted to love it, I can’t anymore.

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Borneo by Rainforest Action Network

[pic source]

I don’t use palm oil.

I mean, firstly, there is the environmental impact. Dead orang-utans, deforestation, cruelty and a long list of other things turned me off the idea of using palm oil in soap long before I even started making my own.

Secondly, palm oil is kind of a hassle and when I hear soap makers complaining about having to melt the entire bucket of palm oil down and stir well before they use it, I’m glad my own personal ethics prevented me from even experimenting with palm oil in the early days.

But that’s the thing about ethics, they’re tricksy and they hold me to a far higher standard than any other person truly could.

Our entire business is based around the idea of making luxury soaps, along with bath and body products, and not using any palm derived ingredients along the way.

This was an easy point of difference to hold while I was only making soap. The alternatives to pure palm oil in soap are many and varied and creating a palm free recipe truly wasn’t difficult.

But lotions, man, lotions. Trying to work out how to make lotions without using anything palm derived has been a headache and a half.

Firstly, there’s emulsifying wax. The main kind – Emulsifying Wax NF, contains palm derived ingredients.

So our emulsifiers get tricky. I can buy olive derived emulsifier, but they tend to need more work to retain stability, as well as costing a good deal more, and requiring a higher percentage to work well.

If I combine two different types of emulsifiers (olive derived), with a palm free thickener (xantham gum, or carrageenan), a lotion base containing high stearic ingredients (cocoa butter and shea butter), and a little wax (beeswax, cadelilla wax, or macadamia wax), I can get a stable lotion.

But it’s more expensive than a cheap hand cream you buy from Kmart, or even a good hand lotion made using palm derived ingredients.

Even trickier, some of the ingredients we commonly think of as palm derived, such as Cetyl Palmitate and Sorbitan Palmitate, are the main ingredients in a stabiliser derived entirely from olives. The problem is the fatty acids were named after they were found in large amounts in palm oil. Olive oil can still be broken down to make Cetyl Palmitate and Sorbitan Palmitate, just in much lower quantities.

You can see my problem here, can’t you? Ingredients need to be queried over and over again with my suppliers and often times with their manufacturers. One of the most common preservatives on the market has an ingredient which may be palm derived, but it may also be synthetic and created in a lab. We’re still trying to work out which, and while we wait to hear from the manufacturers, I can’t buy or use the product.

The benefits add up of course, despite the amount of time I spent frantically googling, and emailing suppliers, I get to feel comfortable with all of my products.

I plan to start testing lotion recipes in the new year, using an entirely palm free recipe. When it eventually goes on sale (probably around September, to give time for effective challenge testing), the price won’t look like a bargain. I won’t have people exclaiming over how inexpensive my products are.

However, the point isn’t to make the cheapest skincare products available. The point is to make amazing products entirely palm free, so I can sleep at night.

Someone once said, “soapmakers are such a small percentage of people using palm oil to make products, I don’t see how us avoiding palm changes anything.”

And maybe it doesn’t. I am a very small maker in a world filled with Kmarts, and Coles-Myer groups, and no, I don’t always check my chocolate to make sure its palm free, so I might be a hypocrite.

I can however, take a stand in this one small thing, because I can’t feel good about the things I make if I know I’m using ingredients derived from palm.

It’s a complex issue and I really encourage you to do your own research on palm oil and what sustainable palm oil is (I haven’t been able to find any information on sustainable palm oil which convinces me to use it, although in other countries it can be quite different – I know the US has palm farms on US soil, so it may well be less awful to use palm there) and how everything is used.

In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to untangle the threads of what each ingredient is derived from, and making what I can.

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Poverty isn’t a choice you make

by Veronica on May 16, 2014

in Headfuck, Soapbox

I watched Bill Shorten’s Budget Reply Speech last night, quietly cheering from my couch as he addressed issues which concerned me. Youth Newstart, poverty, the medicare co-payment. I sat there, waiting for him to go in to bat for young disabled Australians.

Only he didn’t.

Sure, he mentioned pensioners multiple times, but unless recipients of the Disability Support Pension (DSP) have suddenly morphed into senior citizens, he wasn’t talking about us.

Yet again, the disabled are relegated to the corners, out of sight out of mind. We don’t count – not in a visceral way. Surely people in wheelchairs can work? After all, they’re sitting down all day anyway.

There is despair in my household today.

The solar panels we installed to hopefully cut our energy costs aren’t helping us out and my power bill arrived. $670 I have to find from somewhere, while also paying off the stupid panels. Multiple phone calls to the solar company complaining have netted me a lot of reassurance about “we’ll have to check your contract and see what we promised we’d deliver” and “we’re looking into it”, but that doesn’t stop my bills arriving, or the money being paid off the panels leaving my bank account.

I can tell you there is a vast difference between what we were promised, and what has been delivered.

I was reading the Griffith Review this morning; a powerful piece about poverty.

It hit home, hard.

Poverty isn’t a choice you make. It’s the result of a series of impossible choices thrust upon you. Food on the table today, or money for a train ticket to a job interview. Getting the kids school uniforms, or buying a work shirt. Petrol for the car or money for power. A prescription, or food.

And I understand it.

The difference between those women and my situation is a fine line. There’s no domestic violence here, and no addiction to hold us hostage. A very fine line. I’m not beholden to market place rent, just interest rates. I don’t have to worry about a landlord kicking us out onto the street.

I am lucky, and how lucky I am. I chose a man who doesn’t beat me. It seems like it should be an easy choice, but look around you. Domestic violence is everywhere, fueled by the hopelessness and despair of poverty and the addictions that take hold when you try to forget how bad your situation is.

Poverty is insidious and it isn’t as simple as asking us to choose not to be poor. It’s more than the ‘just get a job’ rhetoric. Youth uneployment in Tasmania is 20%. You can’t tell me there are enough jobs to go around.

My car is at the mechanic today, having wheel bearings replaced. It’s a necessary thing – there’s no public transport here and we need a car. But it’s also an extra chunk out of the budget I would have preferred to spend on things like groceries and new shoes for the kids.

A fine line between surviving and not.

We will be fine, but many other people will not be.

In September, I’m due to open up my shop to sales. We had planned to launch in November, but we’re moving it up because we can’t afford to wait the extra two months. We’re hopeful our networks will support us, and our business will grow and thrive.

Like I said yesterday, I have options many people do not. I can write articles and pitch to magazines. I can make soap and sell it. I can put my head down and push through until things look brighter.

I can make my work fit around my disability.

I could not make my disability fit around my work.

And that is what is wrong with the politicians right now. They truly believe we can make our disabilities fit around a job. This shows an intrinsic misunderstanding of the nature of disability, which is a complex and nuanced issue. We’re not all in wheelchairs. We’re not all mobility impaired. We’re not all paralysed.

What we are right now though, is hopeless. Filled with despair at what our future might hold.

Tired from fighting it.

That’s what we are.

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I am disabled.

Every few months I’ll have a run of good days and start to think wistfully about going to University and studying something I’m interested in. Or the disability bashing will get inside my head and I’ll start to question myself. Surely I could work a part time job, right?

Then something will happen. My body will collapse and I’ll spend three days vomiting, only managing to parent my children through the use of heavy duty anti-emetics which will probably cause Parkinsons when I’m 50. Or maybe I’ll dislocate something so badly I’ll end up curled up in a little ball whimpering and unable to move until my husband reduces the dislocation for me, braces my joints up and puts me to bed. Or my blood pressure will bottom out and I’ll puke and pass out at the same time.

It doesn’t last long, my wistful wanting, before I’m faced with the reality of my particular disability.

I can’t drive because I can’t be trusted not to dislocate something badly while driving, or go all wobbly and dizzy. Public transport is non-existent, and it wouldn’t matter anyway, because the simple act of sitting up straight with my feet on the floor causes enough problems to write an entire blog post about.

Disability is a multi-faceted and complex thing, but Joe Hockey isn’t interested in hearing our personal stories of woe. To him, disabled Australians are an untapped workforce. Too long we have languished in our beds, on our couches, collapsed on our floors. Not only do we refuse to work through sheer laziness, sucking at the public teat like our life depends on it, but we also clog up the medical systems.

No worries. He’ll just stop indexing our pensions, make doctor co-payments a thing, charge us for blood tests and xrays and take away money from our hospitals.

Soon enough we won’t be sucking at the public teat, because we’ll be dead.

I’ve spent three days digesting this budget and I can’t see a way forward that doesn’t involve crying. How am I meant to survive if I’m assessed as being able to work eight hours? And I don’t kid myself – I have no cognitive impairments and I can walk for like, 2 minutes, so I’m perfectly capable of working, surely.

In the last three weeks, I’ve left my house once, and this was to take my youngest child to a speech therapy appointment. My husband, my carer, drove us. Then I forced myself to walk around the supermarket buying food so we didn’t starve. I spent the rest of that day in bed, and the one after too. In and out, parenting prone, between doing the work which we hope will support us when the government cuts us adrift to die.

You don’t want to know how much of our budget goes on food which is too expensive and doesn’t last nearly enough meals.

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I can freelance to make ends meet when I need to. I have a fledgling business which should be up and running by the end of the year. I have options I can carry out from my house, from my bed, when I need to.

My friends, my family, my peers, they don’t have this.

If you’re under 35 and disabled, sorry, but your disability isn’t a real thing. It doesn’t count. We’re just couchsitters, lazy, unwilling to commit to hard work.

Isn’t that right Joe? We’re disabled, so we have no right to live, let alone live without fighting a daily financial struggle.

And this is leaving aside entirely the nightmare of the changes to Newstart allowance, of forcing young people to earn or learn in an economy with no jobs and unattainable education systems.

Force the lot of us into work. Minimum wage to fill a gap, killing ourselves in the process. Cut the mental health budget – mental illness isn’t a real thing anyway. Cut the welfare. Cut the hospitals. Charge for doctors.

Joe Hockey is out there, smocking a cigar right now while our world crashes down around our ears.

The flow on effect of these changes is unimaginable. Crime. Hopelessness. Endemic poverty.

How many convicts were sent to Australia for stealing a loaf of bread, Joe? Is that what this is? Are we merely returning to our roots?

I look at this budget and I despair. Stamp all over the poor people. Let our blood fertilise your field of propaganda and lies.

We’re just grist for the mill now. Chew us up and spit us out.


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