Daily Archives: April 11, 2010

High cholesterol isn’t easy, nor is it fun

One day long ago (24 years or so), a certain obstetrician was about to begin yet another C-section. As he set about his work, another physician sat waiting and watching. I’m not sure what his technical job was but apparently he felt obligated to keep the expectant parents entertained and therefore, oblivious to the surgical procedure.

Since the doc has only seven minutes in which to extract the baby, this entertaining stuff didn’t require a lot of work, but Dr. Comedy had his act prepared. The husband found this whole gig highly amusing. The pregnant woman, on the other hand, simply wanted the whole thing over with. But…in the midst of this process, both heard one comment from the comedian — nothing funny, just a statement.

“Wow. There’s no fat in there. All that running has paid off.” Okay, this may not mean anything to anyone else, but to me it signaled that I must be healthy.

Hmmm…about one month later bloodwork appeared suspicious so I found myself in the waiting room of an internist. This guy — stern with nary a hint of a smile — sat and hmmmmmed over the reports. He ordered additional bloodwork and sent it off to various labs. It came back with the same result — cholesterol near 400. This he blamed on my hormones and insisted that I quit breastfeeding. A month or so later, the bloodwork was repeated and sure enough, said cholesterol had dropped to 230ish. Still high, but maybe we’d wait and see.

Well, fast forward 30 years. I’m still waiting for those hormones to revert to normal. In fact, they’ve probably veered of onto a whole new course. But the cholesterol remains high. Always has. Probably always will. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I — along with three of my four brothers and countless cousins on the Suter side — have genetically high cholesterol. Most of us are on the thin side, exercise regularly, eat well (i.e lots of veggies, fruit, lean protein, etc.) and do not fit the stereotypical “high cholesterol look.”

Some of us taken one of the various meds designed to lower the wrong stuff and raise the good stuff, while others rely on Omega 3, flax, niacin, and other non-chemical sources.

On the other hand, there is Mr. S, he of extremely low cholesterol who can eat whatever he darn well pleases. Make that “could”. A week ago, he came to me and said, “i’m going to show you something that will either make you laugh or will put me at your level.”  Recent bloodwork revealed that his cholesterol had shot way up there near mine. He was devastated.

Here’s the problem.  Having done this lowfat, eating right thing for most of my life, I know without thinking what I can and cannot eat. I’ve learned all the substitutions (i.e., applesauce for fat in recipes) and can find all hidden words like “hydrogenated” in that tiny print used for lists of ingredients.

But try to teach this stuff to someone. It’s not easy, and I don’t have a lot of patience with that kind of teaching. My solution was to buy “Controlling your cholesterol for dummies” or some similar title, hand it over and say “Read this. Then we’ll talk.”

We’re still talking. It’ll take awhile. In the meantime, I have enough sympathy to know that he misses stuff like cake and pie. So I baked one of his favorite cakes and presented it with one caveat: No more eating all of this at once.

Here’s the recipe:

Wacky Cake

1 c. white sugar (try reducing this to 3/4 c.)
1 1/2 c. flour (try 1 c. white, 1/2 c. whole wheat)
3 tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Mix dry ingredients with a fork in the pan you expect to bake it in. Add (into 3 holes) 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tbsp. vinegar, 6 tbsp. canola or olive oil (or 6 tbsp. applesauce). Pour 1 c. cold water over all and mix with your fork. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees F.  (You may double this for a sheet cake pan.)

The recipe includes this “icing”, but for obvious reasons, I prefer to sprinkle powdered sugar on the cake once it has cooled.

1/3 c. butter
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. nuts
2 tbsp. water
Mix and pour over baked cake and broil until brown.

A day with the kid in Cincy

Why is it some days never go quite as planned? Most days….at least my days. Yesterday my plan was to leave Bluffton at 7 a.m. But for as long as I’ve been responsible for getting myself places, I’ve rarely been able to leave at the scheduled time. Am I the only person who thinks of just one more important thing to take along or to do before I can leave? My husband…Mr. Organization…doesn’t share this problem, but over the years he’s learned to expect it.

Anyway, in actuality, 7 a.m. became 7:30 a.m. (technically, 7:40 a.m. since I had to stop for gas). Which, if you asked the kid at the other end who was expecting my visit, was dandy because it meant she could sleep in that much longer. As it turned out, my arrival time of about 10 a.m. was almost perfect. Almost perfect because they live in one of those old old brick three story houses where you ring a buzzer outside the front door and speak into a little cone to announce your arrived. It works. I know this because we tested it several weeks ago. But I rang and rang and got no response.

This, of course, was because said daughter was out walking….errr, being walked by Penny, the dog whose job it is to yank the arm out of the socket of whoever is on the other end of the leash. I watched this take place from my spot on the stoop. I’ve always wanted to sit on a stoop. 

As I said, there were plans. First on the agenda was to measure for curtain fabric — except no tape measure exists that easily accomodates those tall tall antiquated windows of their house. We did a fair estimate and headed out for Melt. No, Melt is not a fabric store, but to be a successful shopper, one must be well fortified with food. Melt is all about food. Good stuff…some vegan, some vegetarian, all good.

Once fortified, we struck out for the fabric store. Which, as it turns out, had not a smidgeon of what was desired. Why is it when you know exactly what you want, you can’t find it? Turns out this is also true for my daughter. What she really desired can only be described as vintage late ’60s-early’70s. 

She takes me to a thrift store which she warns me — understand, this is the child who is the master of the understatement — is “kind of messy, Mom”. Qh, if only. Turns out this “store” markets itself as “vintage” but is better described as junk. Even I — the  queen of finding the best bargains in the worst thrift store — had my doubts when we opened the door.

But there on top of a long rack of clothes, are stacks of bolts of fabrics — some of uncomparable ugliness, some completely nondescript. But of course, under about 10 other bolts is THE fabric. This is the fabric we have been searching for. Remember that sort of late ’60s green with large pinkish red and bright yellow flowers? Or maybe they were birds…I’m not sure.

My child knows her mind. She is an artist. This is THE fabric. We yank at it with all our strength, praying that the rest of the 200 bolts don’t come barreling down on top of us. It would be weeks before they found our bodies. I am not exaggerating.

Finally, along with about 100 years of dust bunnies, it is in our hands. We look at each other and grin. How much, she wonders? We drag it up to the counter and holding our breath, ask if we can buy only as much as we need or if we have to the buy the whole bolt. The sweet girl-clerk assures us we may buy as much as we want at an astounding $3/yard.

We leave the store with our prize and without a word to each other, know that this will be transported home in the trunk. There it will be washed in VERY HOT water. Only then will it be fit to be sewn.

This was truly the highlight of our day…although we sallied through two more “vintage” stores (note to Et Cetera: rename yourself “Vintage Menno”), bought the softest t-shirts at American Apparel, and found the only restrooms open to the public in the UC area of Cincy.

It was about this time that I noticed the child was turning green and holding her stomach. Turns out she’d accidentally eaten some gluten the night before — not good for one who doesn’t tolerate gluten. We booked it for home — just in time — and I spent the next hour alternately convincing Penny that she really did not need to relieve herself on every blooming tree in the yard of St. Boniface Church, and telling Anne one of her favorite childhood stories as she drifted in and out of sleep.

By the time I headed home, I realized my one mistake: It is not wise to leave Cincinnati at 6 p.m. on a Friday night…unless of course, one enjoys sitting perfectly still in a long line of cars…for a long while.