Looking forward to 2016

Enjoy Life Christmas Tree Brownies

It's hard to believe it's almost the end of the year. Every year is seems like the end of December pounces on us from out of the bushes. Where on earth did it come from? Wasn't yesterday just Spring Break?

Many exciting things have happened this year. I was on TV twice, I met Joel Warady and Beth Hillson, I finally heard Dr. Guandalini speak in person, and I attended some great expos that introduced me to new brands as well as put faces to names of brands I've loved for years. My articles have been featured on Freedible, a great resource and community for those living with food-related illnesses. I also started guest writing for a website called the Awesome Mitten, which hosted my article about the Top 10 Gluten-Free Restaurants in Michigan.

Food Allergy Bloggers Conference

I also attended the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference for the first time. (And flew for the first time in over a decade!)  It was thought-provoking, soul-searching and awe-inspiring. All of the seminars were so helpful and the speakers were so approachable. They taught me how to be better at reaching others through social media. They taught me how to be an advocate for Celiac Disease and those who are affected by it. But most importantly, they asked me the tough questions. Who am I as a blogger and how do I want my blog to be defined? I'm still processing a lot of what I've learned.

I've started to make a few changes. If you've visited my Twitter or Instagram account lately, you'll notice that my handle has been changed to @miglutenfreegal. (And if you haven't visited, you should! You're missing out on gluten-free news and pictures of adorable dogs.) I've changed my profile picture to one of myself, so you can see who I am. I've updated my descriptions on my social media accounts so you know more of the real me, not just pictures of food and retweets of companies. I've added a direct connection on my blog so that you can email me with questions, concerns and even praises. (Or ask for my address because you want to send me a box of chocolates because I'm super awesome.)  Through this, I'm hoping that we develop more of an authentic relationship. Because I really do want to get to know you. :)

There are lots of changes I still want to make. (Isn't that true for all of us?)
Here's a list of what's percolating through my noggin'.

1) Through my work with the Lansing Gluten Free Fair, I've become passionate about connecting great gluten-free Michigan companies with those who need Celiac-safe foods. Companies whose faces and families I've met in person, businesses with a heart and a passion for people. Businesses we love because they love us back.

So in 2016, I'm hoping to have a weekly  biweekly "Michigan Made Monday" post. This will be written in an interview format, asking brands about who they are, why they started a gluten-free business, and tidbits about them personally so that they become like family to you as well. My fingers are crossed that I might even host a few Twitter parties coupled with product giveaways!

Celiac Support Group

2) Through my work with the Mid Michigan Celiac Support Group, it is so apparent to me the lack of real education for those who are newly diagnosed. I once had a person referred to me whose gastroenterologist told me that they didn't know much about the disease. Her doctor directed her to just look Celiac Disease up on the internet. INEXCUSABLE. I receive phone call after phone call, and at the end of every conversation, I'm told how much they have learned from me in just a short period of time.

So in 2016, I'm hoping to offer weekly information for those newly diagnosed. Factual information about the disease, trusted information about promising cures, and real-time information about what is happening in the gluten free industry. I'm hoping to start a local "Celiac Disease Education" class too. I have a degree in education. It's about time I start using it.

3) Through all of my experiences, I want to be a better advocate. One of my sessions at FABlogCon was with THE Jules Shepherd. She was so inspiring as she talked about the steps she personally took to help bring about a definition for "gluten-free" labeling in the United States. I want to be someone like that. I want to be someone who changes the world.

So in 2016 I want to become a better Celiac Disease advocate by reaching out to one of the most important segments in proper diagnosis. Doctors. It is so common to hear from new patients about how their doctors are uneducated about the disease, that dietitians know nothing, and that hospitals continually send us food that we can't eat. I've come to realize that instead of being angry by their lack of knowledge, that I can instead be there to teach, encourage and support them. Through better knowledge, medical professionals might be able to diagnose SO many more people.

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Cheerleading Team
While this has picture has nothing to do with Celiac Disease,
 this has everything to do with teamwork and new challenges.
This is me coaching cheerleading to kids 10 and under.
 For the first time. Ever. I know, I'm crazy, right? 
Change is never an easy process, and trying to be a force for change is daunting. That's why I'm sharing this with you. Because once you know, you can hold me accountable. We're in this together, right? Teamwork. I want to be the best resource I can be, because living with this disease can be frustrating and alienating at times. It can scary, especially when there are bad sources of information and personalities that want to persuade us to live in fear of everything.

I want to genuinely thank those who follow my blog by email. (If you don't, there's a spot up above just under the Twitter and Instagram "Connect with me" icons to sign up. And don't forget to confirm your subscription when Blogger sends you an email!) It's nice to know that someone out there is interested in what I have to say. You'll only be contacted each time I post an article. No spam.

I'm also interested in what you have to say. I get excited every time someone leaves a comment. It's like getting a letter from a pen pal! So please feel free to leave comments at any time. For example, I'd like to know what you like about my blog in particular so I can strengthen those attributes. Do you like my writing style?  Is my blog Trustworthy? Outgoing? Funny? Realistic? Down-to-earth? What aspects of living gluten-free do you struggle with and what resources on my blog would be helpful?

I hope that you have an enjoyable Christmas season. I hope it's filled with laughter, lots of gluten-free goodies, and supportive friends & family. (And snuggles from cuddly dogs. Those are always the best.) I look forward to helping each other in the New Year to be safe, connected, and ready to take on the world.

Margaret Clegg

Gratuitous picture of adorable dogs.
Because, well, DOGS!