Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Corn Syrup Conundrum

When I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I resolved to change our family's eating habits. I tried to buy fruits and vegetables in season from the local farmer's market and what I found out was, my family was eating a lot fewer fruits and vegetables.
So now I buy the boxes of clementines that have been shipped across the Atlantic from South Africa, increasing my carbon foot print with each gallon of fuel the container ship uses to bring my little oranges to the United States.
One thing I have tried to stick with is eliminating high fructose corn syrup from our diet. HFCS is genetically modified to create an easily-transported sweetener that is added to nearly everything. What's wrong with it? According to an article by Linda Joyce Forristal, CCP, MTA, from "In the Kitchen with Mother Linda The Murky World of High-Fructose Corn Syrup," male rats that were fed high fructose diets didn't reach adulthood and had health conditions like high cholesterol, anemia and delayed testicular development. The females didn't have it as bad but couldn't bear live young.
"...all fructose must be metabolized in the liver," Forristal quotes USDA researcher Dr. Meira Fields. "The livers of the rats on the high fructose diet looked like the livers of alcoholics, plugged with fat and cirrhotic."
Okay, I know my kids aren't rats, but I'm looking forward to grandchildren some day, so I want to avoid that lack of testicular development and the ability to bear children. It's just like that book The Children of Men by P.D. James.
But buying food without high fructose corn syrup seems nearly impossible. They hide that in everything. My first surprise was bread. Who'd have thought bread needed high fructose corn syrup? The only loaves I can find at my regular shopping stops are Archer Farms at Target and organic bread at Kroger.
I took my kids off their once weekly soda allotment and instead buy Jones cream soda made from cane sugar. Candy doesn't have a lot of high fructose corn syrup, but just about any baked good is going to have it. Forget bagels. They are off our list forever. English muffins. Little Debbies. All gone.
Spencer asked for fries and steak for his birthday dinner so I was searching for ketchup. Guess what was in it? I found a bottle of organic ketchup and went with that. But then Grace had requested apple sauce and I was out of luck at the local Kroger.
I was kvetching to my friends that I couldn't find any applesauce without high fructose corn syrup.
My friend Laura looked at me in astonishment, "Why would you buy apple sauce? Why wouldn't you just make it from scratch? Cook up some apples and add some sugar."
Keep in mind, this is a friend who admittedly hasn't cooked dinner for her family in weeks.
"Well, geez, Laura. Why would you go buy bananas when you could plant a tree and have perfectly good bananas within years?" I replied. A little stung.
So, this morning I made an apple coffee cake and I'll go to Wild Oats later today to look for organic apple sauce, but I am not going to feel guilty that I don't make it more than once a season from scratch.

Find the Forristal article at http://www.westonaprice.org/motherlinda/cornsyrup.html
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts,
the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2001

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rest in Peace

I don’t know why people insist on open-casket funerals. All it proves to me is that the person so obviously isn’t there any more. They don’t even physically resemble themselves.
I was thinking that this weekend when I stood behind a 94-year-old woman who was saying goodbye to her 92-year-old sister in a brushed metal coffin. The 94-year-old is the last of her siblings left and as she looked at my mother-in-law’s face, she probably saw a very different woman than I did, a very different woman than my husband did. She saw a tiny girl who stole her toys and a teenager who flirted with her dates. She saw a woman who became a nurse and a mother, a woman who worked constantly as they had all been taught by their Italian immigrant mother.
My husband and his siblings saw a woman who gave them the best she could. They were always clean and well fed. She may not have laughed with them as often as she should have. She may not have swung her toddlers into the air, watching their shoes fly off. She may not have settled onto the couch with a child’s head resting on her shoulder while they laughed at the television. But didn’t she also teach them that those are things they should cherish? By her omission and the times she cried from loneliness, wasn’t she teaching them that these are things to include in life?
When she died last week, my husband was out of town. She’d been sick a few weeks earlier and pulled out of it. She might again, the doctor said. But she didn’t. And I urged him not to feel guilty about missing the final moment. It isn’t about that last moment and who is there to claim it. It’s about adding up all of those moments before and relishing them.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Straight Hair Secrets

Well, I had a straight hair for the weekend and I am quite perturbed that women with straight hair have been hiding the truth from me. I thought this was a sisterhood. Here's what I learned. With straight hair, I can wake up in the morning and my hair looks exactly the same as it did the day before. No strange waves sticking up in the back or clumps of hair leaning to one side or the other. With straight hair, I can ride in the convertible, see the shadow of my hair blowing in straight lines all around my head like I'm incredibly frightened, and when the car stops, my hair looks exactly the same as it did before I climbed in.
I suppose modern technology should be given credit for my weekend of straight hair. It started with a trip to the "salon," which for me is a long narrow shop with six chairs and way too many pictures of Keith Richards. As Grace the hairdresser was beginning to dry my hair, she said, "The usual?" The usual for me is letting it dry naturally. I do as little to my hair as possible. After a shower I add hair gel (confixor by Aveda) and don't think about it again unless I pass a mirror.
"Are there any alternatives?" I asked Grace. "Sure, we could straighten it."
Those words are familiar. I went through years trying to tame my curly hair into a smooth pageboy or even a Dorothy Hamil wedge. After college, I gave up and accepted my curls. The humidity in Washington, D.C. and Florida made straightening an impossibility anyway.
So imagine my surprise when Grace the hairdresser pulled out a ceramic hair straightener and my hair not only went straight, but felt baby fine. This is not my beautiful hair, I wanted to exclaim feeling like David Bowie. But it was. My children and most everyone I know felt the same. People I knew walked right past without recognizing me. Apparently, I look totally different with straight hair. Some people said I looked younger. I thought the lines around my eyes were more apparent because I didn't have all of that hair distracting from them.
And when I got up Saturday morning, my looked exactly the same. So I skipped my morning shower and ran screaming when my daughter called me into the humid bathroom. My husband, who flew in late Friday night, commented that he could run his fingers through my hair without getting stuck in tangles. On Sunday morning, my hair still looked great. Not a sign of curl and none of the greasiness that people with normal straight hair get. I avoided getting it wet again. Eventually, I had to shower and my hair has popped back into curls, a little shorter than I would have liked, but I know that if I want it longer and sophisticated, all I have to do is buy one of those ceramic straightener thingees and spend about an hour every morning fixing my hair...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


My husband called last night from his vacation, oops, I mean work conference. He was standing at the top of the St. Petersburg Pier and I could hear the wind whistling across his phone. He'd had two beers and was feeling romantic as the balmy breeze buffeted him.
I was immediately expected to match his cuddly mood as I sat at my hallway desk helping to cut and paste the table of contents for my daughter's government report, worth 20 percent of her grade. My back was already aching from sitting in the straight-backed chair for a good part of the day while I graded 25 compositions.
I'm afraid I didn't jump to that romantic, reminiscent mood my husband was hoping for. He was talking about walking along the bay. The smell of the air on those nights when the wind blew just right, rustling the palm fronds. I was barely giving him the "hmmmm" response because I was concentrating on the correct page number for each constitutional cartoon.
My 11-year-old stumbled into the hallway, a tissue stuffed into his red, chapped nose wanting to know if I'd watch Dancing with the Stars. When he saw the already distracted look, he retreated to the television in the basement.
My husband gave up with a sigh. "We should come here sometime, just the two of us," he said. I tried to picture him in the darkening night walking back toward his hotel, the gulls swooping from above and screeching. Then I realized that the evening was getting dark and my middle son wasn't back from the football game yet. My husband had lost my attention again.
"I love you," I managed to call. "Have a good time."
And I wasn't picturing a time when the two of us could escape there together, instead, I was wondering when I might escape to a "conference" and have evenings to drink atop the St. Petersburg Pier and imagine my husband at home, juggling kids and homework.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Hidden Cost of ChiRunning

I just want to reiterate the value of exercise before I start totaling up the cost of exercising, and I'm not talking about the cute running shorts or the expensive shoes. Today, in my second trip back to the doctor in a week, I handed over my credit card for my $20 co-pay.
"$10" the Russian-born receptionist asked, as if she hoped to make it less painful. Maybe she felt guilty that I paid $20 on Monday and all the doctor did was tut over my knee and tell me to come back.
In some distant month, I can see myself practicing ChiRunning as I glide along the street, barely breathing hard. For now, I'm entering the bills on my Quicken, unable to run for another week yet.
ChiRunning class taught by impeccable instructor -- $125
ChiRunning book and metronome to keep me in beat -- $ 55
Emergency Room co-pay at 6 a.m. -- $ 75
Co-pay for first visit to have stitches removed -- $ 20
Co-pay for second visit to have stitches removed -- $ 20
Lost hour and a half of work in the writing center
while I had the stitches removed -- $30
Session with psychologists to lament the fact that
I can't run and must find other ways to deal with
my stress -- $120
Extra large bandages, epsom salts, mochas to ease
the pain, extra gas because I'm driving instead
of walking -- $??
New running shoes to replace the bloodied ones -- $90

In spite of the finances, the thing I feel badly about is that Grace fell on the same day as she was riding her bike to school. I was sitting with my stitched knee propped up when she came home with large bandaids on her ankle and knee. She hadn't ridden home in disgrace, dripping blood and crying. She had simply gone to the school nurse and gotten taped up. She didn't, or couldn't, make a big deal about it, because I had trumped her with my stitches. I was proud that she was more concerned about someone else (me) than her own injuries. She's really growing up. And it gave me pause, briefly, to wonder what it would be like to have a self-centered mother who frequently grabs the limelight with her own complaints.
Of course, I shouldn't overlook the benefits I've reaped from this episode. I haven't done laundry for two and a half weeks because the washing machine is in the basement.
As my fall becomes a bad memory, I will be left with only a Great Britain shaped scar.
Photo: http://creditcardlovers.com/

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...