Bettering

I’m feeling much better. I have been for awhile, but forgot to write about it here because I have been writing a lot elsewhere, mostly for work.

My writing is really going well. I am really proud of some of the things I have written and do hope they can see the light of day someday. I’ve come up with a Nom de Guerre (someday will share that, too) with which to show my erotic writings. I’ve been encouraged to write on Literotica for years and am this close (holding my thumb and forefinger a fraction away from each other) to doing so. Will all the years of writing lead to being known for erotica? I find that somewhat amusing.

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I’ve been going through my old Navelgazing Midwife site for some folks looking for things in particular. Damn, I wrote some good crap there! I was reading from back in 2011… my voice is the same as it is now, my feelings pretty much the same now. How reviled I was for bucking the system! Sheesh. That was so so long ago, but seems like a blip in time ago, too. Isn’t time crazy?

I am writing a lot on Second Life, too. I have also been asked to teach some classes, which will be lots of fun. Classes about women’s health, cultural sensitivity in discussing sex workers, issues around pregnancy and the like.

More to write… on my way.

Food Memory: Frozen Orange Daiquiris

When I was 16 years old, I used to wander over to the Contemporary Resort at Disney World to lay out in the sun on their beach, something that isn’t possible anymore because of alligators. But, then, Disney was still young and the gators hadn’t yet infiltrated the lakes.

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Back of the 1978 Contemporary Resort. Note the beach on the upper right… this is where I would lay out in the sun.

I was fat, but wore a tube top and a bathing suit bottom that went up to my belly button, keeping my midriff exposed to the sun.

These were the days before we knew about skin cancer and using sunscreen. I had my trusty bottle of baby oil that I slathered on every couple of hours. (Tanning at home, I used Crisco.) Just reading it, I’m checking all my freckles and moles!

No one ever checked to see if I had a room key or asked if I belonged on their beach. That would never happen today. Because no one cared, when I got hot, I’d dive into one of their two pools, swim around (I’m a great swimmer), get cool, then go back to my spot on the beach.

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One time when I was in the pool, there was a woman sitting on the side hollering, “Barbie! Barbie!” and I answered her, asking, “Yes?” I swam over to her and she was calling one of her twin daughters, also named Barbie… we laughed, then introduced ourselves. It took less than 2 minutes before we were fast friends. After we were done swimming, I took them on a guided tour of the Magic Kingdom (the only park open then) and they took me to dinner. Barbie’s mom and I corresponded for 10 years, talking on the phone a lot, too. They lived in Canada, so never saw them again. I think about the family often wondering whatever happened in their lives.

Frozen Orange Daiquiri

But, what about that Frozen Orange Daiquiri?

While I lay on the beach, servers wandered around asking if people wanted something from the bar (including snacks!). Can you imagine that happening today? No way in the world would they traipse in the sand selling drinks. But then, it was awesome.

The first time I had enough money to buy something to drink, I asked if there was a virgin anything cold and the server said, “We have Frozen Orange Daiquiris,” and I probably said, “Yes!” way too loud, but she toddled off to the bar to get me that drink.

I swear she floated back, my drink balanced on her tray, my mouth watering as she came upon me like an angel of Frozen Orange Daiquiris.

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It was served in a clear plastic cup with an orange slice on the rim.

It was exquisite.

Sipping the thick icy treat, I found using the orange slice as a scoop to be more efficient as well as yum-MEEEE! I asked the server for a few orange slices when I ordered the next drink and she brought me a bowl of them!

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This became my special treat and even when I didn’t feel like laying out in the sun, I’d go to the Contemporary Resort, sit at the Sand Bar and order one Virgin Frozen Orange Daiquiri after another. With a pile of orange slices to dip, use as a scoop, then peel the orange from the rind with my teeth.

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I can taste it even now, feeling the searing sun on my back, slurping the icy drink off the orange slices.

Where Are They Now?

I have not figured out why, but no one seems to make Frozen Orange Daiquiris anymore. They make Peach, Mango, even an Orange-Banana, but where are the unadulterated Orange ones? I’ve ask experienced bartenders to make me one and usually get a look of confusion. I’ve probably only had 5 in the last 40 years. And even those didn’t taste like I remembered.

Yes, I am aware that the atmosphere of the burning sun, the white sandy beach, being on Disney property, the server wending her way through the lawn chairs, the piles of cold orange slices create a memory that can never be recreated, that no matter how many Frozen Orange Daiquiris I have, none would ever taste the same.

I’m salivating remembering the tart sweetness over the decades.

Let’s bring the Frozen Orange Daiquiri back to a drink everyone asks for!

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Southern Food Memories

I’m having a flood of food memories and thought I should write them down for my kidlets and others who remember these crazy things.

Red Velvet Cake

I remember the first piece of Red Velvet Cake I ever had. First grade. The perfect square of deep red with white frosting. When I picked up a piece with my metal fork and slid it into my mouth, I’m sure I made a childish moan of delight.

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I never saw Red Velvet Cake outside of the south until about 30 years ago. Reading, it seems that the movie Steel Magnolias (a movie I have memorized) brought the dessert out of the southern states about 1989 when the Groom’s Cake, in the shape of an armadillo, was blood red from the cake inside.

Jell-O Cake

I haven’t seen the Jell-O cake in decades, but remember how to make it as if it was yesterday.

• Make a yellow cake in a 9×13 pan
• Let it cool
• Use the back end of a wooden spoon to make a few holes around the cake
• Make 2-3 different kinds (and colors!) of Jell-O
• While the Jell-O is still liquid, randomly pour it into the holes

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• Put the now kinda colored cake in the refrigerator for a few hours
• Once the cake is cold, frost it with Cool Whip. (It has to be Cool Whip! Not real whipped cream, but Cool Whip.

simple jello poke cake

I prefer the multi-colored cakes, but I see online it is common to make this for red, white & blue holidays.

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Besides how to make this cake, I can taste it as if it was sitting in front of me.

Mmmmm

Bacon Fat

I used to go to Tifton, Georgia with a childhood friend, visiting her grandmother. Tifton is still really small, but back in 1974 or so, it was tiny.

Grandma lived on a farm… cows, chickens, horses, pigs, corn fields… the whole farm thing. Visiting grandma in Tifton remains the only time I’ve ever been to, visited or stayed on a farm.

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A pretty good picture of what the farmhouse looked like.

It was hot as Hades at that house. Not even fans, much less air conditioning. The windows were always open, cicadas and neighing from the horses the only sounds during the windless nights.

Sitting in the kitchen was big fun. Grandma cooked everything from scratch (as most everyone did back then), 3 meals a day, 365 days a year.

Huge, amazing breakfasts of fresh bacon, eggs from the chickens and lots of thickly buttered white bread toast.

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When the bacon was done, grandma poured the hot grease on top of the older grease sitting in a Ball Jar next to the stove. Grease upon grease upon grease, sitting for goodness knows how long.

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If something was going to stick to the cast iron pan, a heaping spoonful of grease was added to the pan.

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Because eggs were a sticky sort of food, bacon grease was the base as they were cooked… bits of bacon fat throughout.

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How this bacon fat generation didn’t all die off from heart disease is beyond me.

Certainly all the hard work helped.

Creamed Corn

Still on the farm with my friend and her grandparents, we girls were sent out to the corn field to pick corn off the stalks. A novice, I had to be shown what was a good piece of corn to pick off, having chosen semi-rotten corn at first.

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Once I figured it out, we went about our business and filled the giant basket we were given.

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When our baskets were full, we carried them right into grandma’s kitchen where she almost immediately set to work. We were in charge of getting the “angel hair” (silk) off the cob, then passed the clean corn to grandma so she could get the kernels off.

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Getting the kernels off the cob.

This part was the most time-consuming part. It would take hours of manual muscle to scrape, scrape, scrape the cob in order to get what she needed to make the creamed corn.

But, when all the corn was off the cob, the deliciousness really started.

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Creamed Corn

 “Bolt” Peanuts

Boiled Peanuts are a part of the Deep South. You are nearly required to say the words with a Southern accent: “Bolt Peanuts.”

Roadside stands are everywhere.

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For those who’ve never had the opportunity to taste boiled peanuts, you can also get them in the store… canned!

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Here’s what they look like when being made at one of the outdoor locations.

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People eat them in different ways. Some will remove the peanut out of the shell with their fingers, others take the peanut out once it is in their mouth… but many, many eat them without removing the squishy shell.

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My thoughts on boiled peanuts: THEY ARE REVOLTING. Slimy shells are incredibly gross. Foodie, beware.

Pickled Pigs Feet

Yet another Southern delicacy is Pickled Pigs Feet. Not kidding.

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Now, while I’ve never put these in my mouth, they are incredibly popular in all stores, large and small.

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Anecdote: My niece was about 3-years old and there was a lower bin filled with pigs’ feet. She asked what they were and mom told her, “Pig’s feet!” My niece looked at the bin, back to mom, then back to the bin and asked, “Then how do the piggies walk?” Smart child.

Grits

My childhood friend Angel taught me how to eat grits.

Grits are made from corn (no clue how) and used to have to be cooked, but now come in the instant variety. To me, there’s no difference in the taste, so bring on the instant grits!

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Angel first made me grits with sugar in them. Blech.

Then she introduced me to grits with butter. So much butter, the grits in the bowl were floating and a bright yellow color.

Heaven!!!

Restaurants in the south often make grits with cheese. Meh. Bring on the butter.

Swimming in butter is how I eat them to this day.

Sandwiches

Simple sandwiches are usually made because by noon it is bloody hot outside. In the olden days, we had no air conditioner. On my friend’s grandparent’s farm, there was never any air conditioner.

It was not uncommon to eat this simple sandwich: Tomato & Mayonnaise on Wonder Bread.

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Tomato & Mayo on White Bread

Note the old plate the sandwich is on in the above picture… gilt around the edge. No one does that anymore because it would spark a fire in the microwave.

And then, the bane of my southern party existence: Pimento Cheese on Wonder Bread.

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Pimento Cheese on White Bread (gag)

Pimentos. DisGUSTing. And then some sort of cheese (not real… can’t be real) all mashed together with mayonnaise. Blech!

Catfish

When I was pre-teen, we’d cram luggage, then ourselves, into the Chevy station wagon (seat belts? HA!) and trek to Shreveport, Louisiana to spend part of the summer with the Cuban side of the family: grandmother, aunt, uncles and cousins.

During one particular visit, the 2 oldest cousins dragged 8-year old me into their clubhouse, wall-papered with Playboy pictures (the first I’d ever seen) and took it upon themselves to tell me how babies were made.

I was so confused.

And once I really learned, I saw they got several facts incorrect. I hope they’ve figured that all out by now.

My parents and aunt and uncle went fishing a couple of times during the summer. I salivated just seeing the fishing poles being put into the cars.

They always came home with gobs of fresh catfish & perch. Still today, catfish is pretty much the only fish I enjoy (memories are strong motivators!).

I remember the scaling of the perch as a messy, gross activity that I stayed far away from lest I be covered in the silvery scales. Whomever was scaling at the moment, when they were tired, were hosed off in the yard to get those tiny flecks of fish-covering off their face and arms, then someone took up the spoon and continued the tedious work.

ScaleFish

Happily, catfish have no scales.

Finally, the enormous Bar-B-Que was fired up and I hung around it, feeling the intense heat, watching the cooking catfish, just stopping myself from begging for the first fish off the grill.

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Being first in line, I often received those burning hot slabs of flesh.

With bones.

I learned how to eat fish around the bones fast, not remembering ever eating a hard fish bone. (The soft ones are often just swallowed.)

Besides the BBQ, the catfish was often fried. Which I loved even more. You can never go wrong with breading and being fried in a cast iron pan.

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I can taste it even now.

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The always-offered hush puppies were also made. I gobbled those suckers up, too. Dipped in ketchup.

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A wonderful book I came across many years ago was White Trash Cooking. Between the covers, recipes and photos brought back visceral memories, making me close my eyes for a moment, and feeling/smelling/tasting exactly what I saw in a mere picture.

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What a fun revisit to my food memories. Thanks for coming along!

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NaNoWriMo

 

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National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo… begins November 1 and goes through November 30. The purpose is to write a 50,000 word Novel (or body of work as I would do) in a month.

50,000 words. That is 1667 words A DAY! That is about 3.5+ hours of writing a day. Eek! AND work and write for work. I am game for trying though.

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I’ve decided to focus my energies on the Food posts. I have an enormous list of stories-by-title-food and can just start at the top and move down.

Just a few here:

  • Jail food
  • Powdered milk
  • Food banks
  • Green mac n cheese
  • Mom’s oatmeal bread
  • Mom’s stew recipe
  • Mom’s Hershey PB cookie recipe
  • Brownies
  • Snickerdoodles

Many more than that… should be FUN!

Write with me?

Who else is doing NaNoWriMo?

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Being Scared

This was a 500-Word Snatch.

I hate Halloween.

I Hate Halloween

It’s scary, spooky, blood-tinged and images of death and dying abound. All the reasons others love the holiday, I hate it.

When I was about 14, I saw The Exorcist in the movies (remember when there was no rating system except X?), my friends egging me on that I was a chicken shit and get over it. Even now, at 57, I wake with nightmares of Linda Blair’s head spinning and green vomit gushing out of her mouth.

I read Amityville Horror because everyone was reading it. I had to keep it covered with a dishcloth under the couch before I could go down the lonely hallway to my bed, lying there for an hour, terrified, before I stiffly fell asleep.

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For the same peer pressure reasons, I rode scary rides at amusement parks and fairs. I am a Disneyphile and once had a vow to ride any ride Disney created because, “How bad could it be if Disney made it?” I’d waited eons before considering going on the Tower of Terror, a 13 story ride where the elevator drops, free-fall, over and over again, as people’s screams resonated throughout the park.

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I was part of a worldwide Disney newsgroup and we would regularly meet in the parks. When one faction began taunting me that I would not go on the Tower of Terror, one of the guys said, “What do expect from a Democrat? They are all scaredy-cats.” Well, that was just the challenge I needed to get myself in line, shaking terribly and feeling like I was going to vomit the whole queue to the actual car that flies up and down. Once in and the bar went down, I screamed to get off, but it was already too late; the ride had begun.

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The huge “elevator” car, carrying 22 people, slowly wended its way through the storyline before clicking into place to go up the 13 floors. It seemed to climb forever upward. (I thought about Charlie in the Chocolate Factory flying out the top in the glass elevator.) Then, once at the top, it goes into a complete free-fall, down several stories, stops, climbs again, only to drop a different number of floors. Over and over until eternity passed and I was finally able to escape the Republican friends who congratulated me on my bravery.

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Me, nearly barfing in the front, with all my friends laughing at my misery!

I began to faint and two people led me to a side corridor, still by the ride’s car, and I sat on the floor, head between my knees, shaking so hard my teeth chattered. I could not get up for 30 minutes. I had several visitors while scrunched on the floor including paramedics who wanted me to go to the hospital for a check-up. I declined.

While I sat there, I resolved to never do anything scary again. No ride. No movie. No book. I would never put myself through that stress again. If I go to a movie and it gets scary, I leave right away and go to a rated G film in the movie complex.

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This has extended to finishing books or movies I do not like. It also melded into what I watch on television, mainly the news.  I figured I was old now and deserved to enjoy what I was reading, watching or listening to. So, if I do not like something, I move on to the next option, releasing the intense urge to complete the task, as I was taught to do growing up.

Nope. Not anymore.

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500-Word Snatch

I just learned what this was about 3 weeks ago, knowing the word “snatch” as something naughty I say at work, not anything to do with writing. But, I learned it is a British term for doing something very quickly. It still means that in American English – “Snatch that chair for me!” – but it has been co-opted by the porn industry.

Anyway, the 500-Word Snatches I am attending are online, in Second Life. Each Sunday, I sit with a virtual group of people and when the buzzer sounds at 10 after the hour, we all begin writing… for 30 minutes… trying to get at least 500 words on paper.

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I’ve already published a couple of my Snatch writings:

Halloween Candy

Día de los Muertos

And will be publishing the ones yet to be written here in the blog, with the Tag “500-Word Snatch.”

I encourage you to do these fun exercises! I am surprising myself at how fast I can get something decent out. It’s also good because it keeps me from editing while writing.

Let’s do Snatches together!

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Día de los Muertos

This was written 10-28-18 at a 500-word Snatch in Second Life. It was written in 30 min. I’m challenging myself to write more… it is working!

I was always under the impression that Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, was a Mexican Halloween. That was until I moved to the Frontera de Mexico, the border town of El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juárez being right across the Rio Grande River.

River isn’t an accurate description. It was mostly waist-high water, slick with oil and roiling with trash and human waste. In other places, it was gross puddles of muck that stuck to people’s legs as they crossed into the United States illegally.

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My clients, my midwifery clients, would wade through the Rio Grande to come to their prenatal appointments, or to us at the birth center in the throes of labor. We would shower and scrub them of the horrific leavings before putting them in their clean private room to have their American babies.

It was during long autumn labors that I learned what the real meaning of Día de los Muertos was. It has nothing to do with fear, scariness or the ravages of death. Instead, the holiday is a beautiful time of remembrance of the loved ones in their family that have since passed on. I learned about the ofrenda, the altar of marigolds and candles, holding the photos of the family tree, always standing guard over the spiritual health of the house’s inhabitants.

ofrenda

My Spanish was still fairly new and primarily obstetric in nature, so the other, more fluent midwives, would translate the newer words for me. At that time, 99% of my days were in Spanish, it pervading even my dreams and sleep-talking. I love Spanish. I am thankful to be fluent finally. Except with engineering Spanish, that would be a challenge still.

Anyway, Día de los Muertos.

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As an atheist, I gave up the idea of a heaven and hell long ago, but an Afterlife? Now that is something different entirely.

I believed (still believe) that, after someone is gone, if they are remembered by anyone alive, they are in “The Afterlife.” It was challenging to articulate that for a very long time, but when Día de los Muertos came into my life, it became clear that I had not invented such a belief, but an entire culture had done the thought a million times better!

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And even though I am a Cuban American, not a cell of Mexican blood in me, I embrace the Day of the Dead holiday… belief… for my own. I have been told it is Cultural Appropriation, that I need to find the Cuban or Swedish holidays of my own DNA… but I sat at the feet of abuelas, the oldest women of the families, as they told me about their own families, the ofrendas of remembrance and I have been doused with Mexican blood, lots and lots of it, doesn’t that count for some alternative christening into the Mexican world?

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It’s my own head game I know. I know darn well it is Cultural Appropriation, but this is one I am clinging to.

Here’s to everyone’s beautiful afterlife. ¡A linda vida futura!