Tuesday, August 30, 2016

HEALTH, HAPPINESS, AND HEARTY OATMEAL COOKIES


This is a follow up to my earlier post, Signs, Glitches, St. Francis, Bad News & Social Media in which I discuss a college-tour road trip and my reaction to recent shootings in the U.S.

Because my daughter and I had car trouble, the road trip, although lovely, ended on a highly stressful note. And upon our return home, I dove in to research about the shootings and came up with a plan to take my activism to the next level.  

I posted that one on Sunday, July 10. On that Tuesday, we had to spend another seven hours on the road returning the rental car and picking up our own car from the dealer. More inertia, more eating of unhealthy foods. The next day I remember being tired, and sad, but also a bit hyper and determined to do something to make a difference in our world.

And then, late on Thursday, July 14, Bastille Day, I heard the news about the mass murders in Nice, France. That's when I gave up. I had nothing left to give, or feel, or do. The thought that I couldn't really change the world overwhelmed me with resignation and defeat.

It was at that exact moment, around 9:40 p.m. that I got sick. The germs and stress from our recent travels won.    

My daughter got sick, too. She developed strep throat and received antibiotics right away.  

I waited about a week before I went to the doctor with a bad cough. I was told it was a virus that had developed into bronchial spasms. I was prescribed medication to treat the symptoms.

Anther whole week went by and I still had symptoms. I went back to the doctor where they finally prescribed me antibiotics. I hate taking them, of course, but they were absolutely necessary. And then I got better.

I was sick for about three weeks total. During this time, I went about as much business as possible because I didn't think I was infectious and I had things to do. So I got my annual blood work taken and later received a call from the nurse.

She said, "You have an elevated white blood cell count and high cholesterol. The doctor wants you to go on a low cholesterol diet and exercise program and then come back in 5 weeks for a recheck."

I blew off the high white blood cell count as not being important because I knew I was sick and was receiving treatment (from a different doctor). So I focused on the high cholesterol issue.

Now I knew that I had been eating terrible road foods, and hadn't exercised really at all for a whole month due to the road trips and then being sick.

My dad has high cholesterol and he suffered a terrible side effect reaction to his first medication. With the desire to avoid any possibility of that happening to me, I engaged in an extreme heart-healthy diet and exercise program based on information I found online. 

Basically, I avoided red-meat, eggs, dairy, and cheese, including my beloved pizza,





and I ate a lot of fish, avocado, beans, olive oil, veggies, and oatmeal.



I kicked back into my exercise schedule and took my vitamins. Vitamins, including omega-3 fish oil, do absolutely no good sitting in the refrigerator. We actually have to consume them daily.

So I did all this for five weeks and then had my blood work taken again a few days ago. I just got off the phone with the nurse. She said, "All your numbers look good!"

"Great! Can you tell me what my cholesterol numbers were last time and what they are now?" 

"Oh, honey. We weren't checking your cholesterol this second time, we were checking your white blood count. You're all good now," she said. 

I'm like, "But what about my cholesterol levels?"

She said, "We don't look at that again until your next physical. Plus, you were only in the borderline range. So just keep doing the heart healthy diet and exercise and the doctor will go over all this with you next year and you might have to take medicine."

I got off the phone and laughed at myself and then I complained to myself a little bit about people in the medical community who might need to work harder on explaining instructions. We don't all know the things they take for granted that we know.

In the end, I'm grateful that I took on this heart-healthy challenge and while I'm going to tone it down a little bit, by adding back in some yummy high-cholesterol foods, I will continue to balance them out with heart-healthy foods and more regular exercise.

How does all this swing back to activism and news of the day? 

Well, I understand better now that it's not all on me. I'm not responsible for terrible things happening in the world. I have no real power to change anything big. But I can do the things I can do. Such as vote. Such as speaking out. 

Such as joining the team of Blessed Bakers at my church. We bake cookies for our city's Midnight Basketball program during the summer and the Police Athletic League's Teen Night during the school year. These are programs specifically designed to give youth something to do at night instead of being out on the dangerous streets.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of making this little bit of difference in my community with the eternal hope that we are creating ripples. I'm also grateful that I can enjoy baking a batch of cookies and not have to look at them for days as they sit on my counter tempting me.

Fresh, homemade, somewhat healthy cookies are just the thing for spreading joy and heart happiness:


HEARTY OATMEAL COOKIES

Ingredients:

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashion rolled oats
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries


Optional add ins: 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts OR, 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter. Make extra certain that nut allergies are not an issue before you share peanut butter or nut-filled cookies. 

Instructions:

 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
 2. Cream butter with electric mixer.
 3. Add sugars. Blend.
 4. Add eggs and vanilla. Blend.
 5. In another bowl, combine flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
 6. Slowly pour dry ingredients into mixing bowl with butter mixture. Blend.
 7. Add chips, cranberries, and optional nuts. Blend until just mixed in.
 8. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper covered cookie sheets.
 9. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 11 minutes, until are edges are golden brown.
10. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving. 

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