a fan, and sleep

When I was a kid, visiting my grandparents in Hialeah, Florida was like going on vacation to a sauna.

Literally.

I could sit in a corner of the living room and sweat would bead all over my body. I didn’t know toes could sweat. Did you? This was a real discovery for me.

It tooks days and days to adapt to the heat and humidity, so I was treated to an oscillating fan at night so I could fall asleep.

It was an absolutely decadent sensual experience.

C’mon now, I was ten. The only other decadent sensual experience I had enjoyed was the sweet frozen goodness of a mamey milk shake. Both, I’ll point out, winners in contributing to relief from the interminable heat.

mamey

I just turned on the oscillating fan in my room and transported to the terrazzo-floored, jalousie-windowed guest bedroom in their home. I’m falling asleep even as I type.

Nostalgia: Astro Pops!

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This is my favorite candy from my childhood. The wrapper says Astro Pop, but I always knew it as a pirulí.

I think I loved it so much because it was a rare treat. My grandparents usually bought these for me when I visited with them, first in New Jersey when I was a very little girl, and then a little later, in Miami.

I don’t recall seeing them at the grocery store, where Hershey bars were front and center (and also a big time favorite of mine), but the pirulís seemed to be at every check out line in the little hispanic markets. In fact, it was the only place I ever saw them.

I guess that’s why they were so special. Because it was an occasion to get one.

Everything about the pops is unique. My favorite part, the first, yellow layer, was so tasty and sweet. I couldn’t quite place the flavor when I was a kid but grown-up me knows it’s supposed to be pineapple. It’s more like cream soda as far as I’m concerned, but I’ll let the manufacturers call it pineapple if they want. It’s followed by passion fruit, another flavor I couldn’t have identified as a child, but the bottom layer, the toxic cherry, was easy enough to name.

I usually lost interest in the candy once I had licked the yellow top into a fiercely dangerous point so sharp it could cut. I know this because I once drew blood testing the point. What’s not to love about a confection that doubles as a weapon? I wonder if the TSA confiscates it along with the nail clippers.

Another reason I rarely finished it was because the base was stuck to a chunk of hard wax. Who wants that crumbling in their mouth?

Still, every once in a while, I’ll smell some pineapple candy and it will remind me of the pirulís I enjoyed (or at least, half-enjoyed) when I was a kid, and it takes me back to those days. I see the same clear, shiny, toxic colors of today’s Jolly Ranchers and wonder why they don’t taste as good as those Astro Pops.

I know why I love pirulis, and it has nothing to do with stabbing my little brother with the sharp point, or even a highly tuned palate that appreciates pineapple and passion fruit. No, it’s because the sight, and the smell, and definitely the taste of this candy transports me to a time in my life when everything was perfect. When happiness wasn’t fleeting and order was the norm.

Perhaps that perception is as artificial as the colors and flavors in the candy, but one thing is for sure: it is reminiscent of a beautiful time in my life full of love and family. What could be sweeter than that?

just a little moment of silence…

…before I chomp down on these little treats…

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They tell me it’s business, not personal. What’s next? Tony the Tiger is gonna retire? No more Frosted Flakes?

coloring the night away

Some of my happiest childhood memories are from moments spent on the floor of this living room, coloring. This picture is cracking me up. You can see the aluminum dinette chair with the plastic upholstery in the dining room, and up against the wall is my doll house. Also aluminum.

In fact, our Christmas tree was aluminum, too. With deep green glass ornaments. And a tacky little green spotlight that made the silver tree shine green. Oh. My.

What can I say? My dad was into the space program — we were whooping it up like The Jetsons.

And that’s me, Judy Jetson, with my hair picked up and flopping off the top of my head. I hated that hairstyle my whole childhood. And then I inflicted it on my own girls. Teehee. It’s so cute.

I spent a lot of time sprawled on the floor…listening to the TV, listening to the grown-ups visiting, listening to my mother play Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck LP’s.

Just plain listening.

It’s why I like to distract myself when I listen to things now. I doodle and fill in letters on meeting agendas, and generally make a gigantic mess of any paper in front of me if I’m sitting through something that I find interesting. It takes me back to a time that was carefree — truly free from any cares. My biggest dilemma was trying to figure out what distinguished the green-blue crayon from the blue-green one.

If only my life could be reduced to the simplicity of a Crayola crayons box, with everything neatly labeled.

Meh. It’s only a temporary and fleeting desire. The truth is that more often than not I tried my hand at creating my own pictures. I tired of coloring inside the lines a long time ago, looking for adventure outside the traditional box with the 8 colors. I wanted the box of 64, with the neat sharpener built into the back.

Yeah. I wanted lots of colors.

I got it, too. The big box, that is. I have no complaints, no regrets. In fact, things around here get more colorful all the time, and I’m happy to throw myself on the rug and enjoy it.

I don’t color anymore — I fill up journals now, but it’s kind of the same thing for me…the sound of the pen scratching against the paper takes me into a little world that’s all my own.

Jellybeans and other things

I ran into the woman who coached my basketball team, the Jellybeans, when I was a kid in 1971. I can’t wrap my mind around the decades that have passed.

Few people know that I have this secret past as a basketball playing, pony-tail shaking, trouble-making bookworm.

Well. Maybe you might believe the last part of that. The basketball, though, often comes as a surprise. I’m okay with people looking at my middle-aged “comfortable” body and squinting to see if there ever could have been a lithe athlete in there.

She’s still there, moving slower, and less gracefully, but in some way…full of grace.

It has less to do with the muscle memory that leads to flawless lay-ups, and more about the muscle memory of the heart.

I learned many lessons while playing sports. Research shows that girls and young women who play sports tend to have better self-esteem, better body image, and better mental health over all. They tend to delay sex longer and are better students.

Those physical lessons that led to championship seasons and excellence on the court were secondary to the moral lessons that influenced my character and directly affected the kind of girl I was, and the woman that I have become.

For every suicide that I ran, building stamina and speed, I learned that suffering and pain can sometimes be fleeting and often leads to strength.

For every monotonous dribbling or shooting drill that improved my skill, I learned about patience and commitment, and the rewards of hard work.

For every play that was repeated over and over until we operated in unison, I learned the value of working together and perhaps more importantly, that everyone on a team has unique skills. I learned to ask for help when in a pickle, and to selflessly jump into the fray to help when I can.

The coaches who taught me those important lessons were in my life for a season (ha, how do you like that unintended wordplay?) but their influence has been timeless.

I’ve passed along those same lessons to athletes I’ve coached, students I’ve taught, and adults I’ve advised. I’v passed those lessons along to my children.

I live those lessons, I hope, with humility but determination. To be my best. To do my best. To be a good sport. To enjoy the game. To laugh, and joke, and celebrate. To lose gracefully, and perhaps, too often forgotten, to win gracefully.

To remember to drink water.

And finally, to begin every endeavor, whether large or small, in prayer.

Our Lady of Victory, pray for us.

Coke and Peanuts…a match made in heaven

There’s been an awful lot of talk about Sweet Tea and other Southern things over on Twitter and the occasional episode of Catholic Weekend. When sampling Sweet Tea turned into a cultural event at a conference I attended at the gorgeous Callaway Gardens, I had to laugh.

Sweet Tea is an iconic southern tradition. It is thick and sweet, and when icy cold, a delicious complement to BBQ. That’s about where I draw the line. If given a choice, I usually reach for the regular iced tea, often referred to as unsweet, but there’s a whole dissertation waiting to be written about how tea can be sweetened, but it cannot be made unsweet. Promises promises. I’ll see that blog post. Never.

My point is, and I do have one, is that there are all kinds of funny southern quirks that generally leave my yankee friends confused, if not down-right appalled. Our gracious host at the conference, a brassy dame from Long Island who cleaned up nicely and was representing the Boston offices, had a sip of the sweet tea, gagged and choked, and shared a rather classy expletive with us. I think that’s the general reaction.

Today, while cruising through twitter while distractedly waiting for a teleconference meeting to start, I ran across a nostalgic tweet about drinking Coke from a glass bottle. Oh! The rush of memories that washed over me! I used to save nickels and dimes and go to the laundromat that was in our neighborhood to buy 8 oz. bottles of Coke (please, pronounced Co-Cola) and a packet of Lance’s salted peanuts from the vending machines. It was 15 cents for the drink, and 10 cents for the peanuts.

I’d sit on the plastic chairs that ran along the length of the landromat, and carefully pour the peanuts into the glass bottle. It would fizz a little, but that never stopped me from drinking that cold Coke and trying to get peanuts in my mouth all at the same time.

It was heaven.

My tastes run a little bit more refined these days. I generally pass on the tea, whether sweet or unsweet, and reach for the pinot noir. But I haven’t forgotten the heady smell of salt and sweet, and how it tickled my noise just so.

I wonder…do y’all know if they still make moonpies?