‘Uncategorized’ Category Archives
by Jan in Uncategorized
A friend in another state wrote me a note this week.
It went something like this: “Tonight I was at the grocery store in the self-checkout lane. A woman and her 10-year-old daughter were next to me. They were obviously really poor. Torn, dirty clothes. They smelled. They were buying cheap peanut butter and bread. I had cheese that cost more than their food for the next few days. She clung to her money as she put it in the machine.”
Now, let me tell you about my friend.
She is a giving soul. She is not wealthy, but she is great at giving. She has learned the secret — giving to others provides more value to her than the money is worth. So, she buys dinner for strangers in restaurants. She buys cups of coffee for the people behind her in line at the drive through. She gives money to charitable organizations that help support people who live in poverty. She buys the “holiday dinner grocery bags filled with food to donate over the holidays.
She is also a talker. She is not afraid to talk to anyone.
So here is where her story gets interesting.
She wrote to me, “In the face of two real people going through a bad time, one in which I could have helped out, I was paralyzed.”
She didn’t want to be rude.
“My fear of saying the wrong thing impeded me from helping someone. What’s the worst that could have happened if I had offered help? They tell me they weren’t poor and had just finished cleaning their gutters or something? I don’t know,” she wrote.
She is right. She is also wise enough to know how quickly she recovers from being embarrassed, but neither of us know much about how long it takes to recover from hungry.
Her situation made me think of another friend — one who is a successful attorney today. A decade ago, she was a young, single mother struggling to get an education and working three jobs. Even though she wasn’t a complainer, several people took note of her efforts. One day as the holidays approached, one of them was courageous enough to fill the trunk of her car with food. That act of generosity changed my friend’s life. It was a bold act that could have been awkward and embarrassing for both of them, but her co-worker took the chance — and in doing so, her generosity has touched an untold number of lives.
Last week, my friend in the grocery store was paralyzed with fear and didn’t take that chance. I’ve done the same thing before and missed opportunities to help or share with others. Instead, she went home and cried. I don’t blame her at all. Maintaining everyone’s dignity is complicated and can be uncomfortable, but as my friend learned, it’s awkwardness worth risking.
Once struck with the magnitude of missed opportunities, something clicks in some of us — and we just start living our lives differently.
“We just seem to get in our own way too much,” she wrote. “I felt so stupidly pampered — and so glad I wasn’t them, which made me feel guilty.”
We’re not accustomed to running into hungry people in the grocery store, or at least people we recognize as hungry. When we do, we don’t know what to do. The lesson is, “Be prepared to help — look for the opportunities all around.”
You will be amazed at what it will do to your life. Who wants to go home and cry over a missed opportunity at helping someone in need, when the answer of what to do is right in front of you — albeit a little out of your comfort zone?
The next time my friend will know what to do. I’m convinced things like this happen to us so that we’re prepared for something bigger — even though she and I both wish she could have helped that pair too. Maybe my friend’s candor will help others learn too.
Maybe you, yes, that would be you, who just read that sentence, will be presented with an up-close and personal opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of someone or several someones sooner than you’d expect. Or maybe you already have.
Either way, you know what to do.
by Jan in Uncategorized
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
It’s totally inclusive. Gifts are not obligatory. It’s just about togetherness, gratitude and a shared meal.
Every year on fourth Thursday in November, our family invites a variety of people to join us at our Thanksgiving table. Many of them come from other places and don’t have family nearby. In my experience, something about being far away from loved ones tends to make people even more grateful.
This year, if my Thanksgiving guests are up for it, I’d like to try a little gratitude experiment that I saw on a website called SoulPancake. The experiment goes like this:
So, if you’re making an appearance at my house on Thanksgiving. Stop reading here. Don’t spoil the surprise.
I’ll ask my guests to close their eyes and think about a person who has had an incredible positive impact in their lives. “With your eyes closed, sit back for a bit, thinking on that person and what he or shy did for you and specific times or instances for which you’re grateful,” I’ll say.
Then, I’ll give them each a piece of paper and ask them to write about the person and experiences they just remembered.
The rest of the SoulPancake experiment is based on University of California psychologist Robert Emmons’ research. Emmons has made studying the science of gratitude his life’s work. He has research to prove that gratitude not only makes people happier, it also leads to better health and a stronger connection to others. Emmons believes practicing gratitude has transformative effects on a person’s social and emotional well being.
While focusing on gratitude is good and helps people feel better, sharing that gratitude takes the good vibes to a whole different level. After my guests have written their pieces, we’ll get out a telephone and encourage each of them to call the person he or she has written about and read what they’ve written.
According to Emmons’ research, practicing gratitude is what it’s all about. So we’ll do our best on Thanksgiving Day, but Emmons says applying the same kind of focus to gratitude the other 364 days of the year has its advantages as well.
He recommends keeping a gratitude journal. He says any practice that helps us develop more grateful thinking also counteracts boredom and apathy — and living from a grateful place is just a better way to experience life.
According to Emmons’ anecdotal research, another idea to launch on Thanksgiving, especially for families with younger children, is what I’m calling Jar of Bounty. Families express their gratitude and in doing so, place a coin or two in a labeled gratitude jar. When the jar is full, they count the money and give it to a specific cause. Feeling grateful is one thing. Sharing gratitude and giving to others is a whole different thing.
In fact, Mother Theresa spoke of the gratitude she felt toward the people she served for allowing her the opportunity to serve others.
If you’re a data geek, you’ll appreciate knowing that in the Soul Pancake experiment, those who took the time to write something down, but chose not to share it by phone, saw happiness increase from 2 to 4 percent. Those who wrote the piece, picked up the phone and shared their gratitude saw happiness increase between 4 and 19 percent. The person who experienced the biggest jump in happiness was the least happy person who walked in the door.
And the moral of this story is, when you’re feeling a little low or if you just want to feel better, find reasons to be grateful — and share that gratitude.
by Jan in Uncategorized
Twenty years ago this morning, I was feeling kind of crazy wondering if I was, in fact, kind of crazy. Later that day, I married my husband. Twenty years down the road, I’m grateful for going through with my decision. Despite ourselves, our shortcomings, the massive amount we had to learn, our marriage has been crazy beautiful.
In honor of all the folks out there who are working their way through marriage — and could probably teach us a lot, here are 20 observations that I believe have improved the quality of our relationship:
- We both let a lot go. We’ve figured out that there’s little need to get in a tizzy over most things. Life works better that way.
- I still laugh at most of his jokes.
- A sleep study and prescribed subsequent actions have the potential to do wonders for a relationship.
- Sitting down at the dinner table together makes us smile and just makes life work better.
- Developing appreciation for and understanding of the different ways we grew up doing things has helped us form our own blend and approach to family life.
- I understand that he just doesn’t have it in him to listen to everything I have to say! But he does a good job when it matters.
- Consistently doing little things — like pouring him a glass of lemonade — goes a long way.
- He gives me thoughtful and wonderful gifts including a new board game every Christmas, which (call me shallow) matters to me.
- There’s real beauty in going to church together as a family.
10. He is good to and has come to love and appreciate my relatives. I feel the same way about his. We’ve done our best to embrace our mutual families’ stories.
11. He sends me flowers.
12. We’ve realized that sometimes we both overlook the many little ways the other gives to our relationship — and so when we get frustrated, we try to remind ourselves of all those little, unnamed things that really add up.
13. Even though I know he’s always on my team and has my back, I still need the friendship and support of others — and he’s cool with that.
14. He makes great breakfast burritos.
15. We’ve learned to play to each other’s strengths as much as possible.
16. Close calls and major disappointments have happened, and we’ve lived to tell the tale. Time strengthens and heals.
17. He’s done a better job than I have of figuring out which battles to fight. I am grateful and hope to learn from his example.
18. I love to entertain. He’s very meh about it. We entertain less than I’d like, but he supports it when we do. If he doesn’t want to sit and visit, he cleans the kitchen. Everybody wins.
19. He’s paid enough attention to figure out things I’d like in categories he’s not even interested in — like books, movies, pasta. I love it when he recommends something he thinks I might like, and he’s usually right. I try to do the same for him. Just little ways to say, “Hey, I get you, and I’m thinking about you. You’re important enough to me that I want to share things with you that will make you smile.”
20. We both understand what the elderly lady on Passe Partout was talking about regarding her longtime marriage when she said, “When he gets mad, he sits in the swing and rocks till he gets glad — and I do the same.”
by Jan in Uncategorized
Anyone who knows much about youtube videos knows that few people would watch anything 27 minutes long unless it was exceptional. When a friend referred the latest hot wedding proposal video my way this week, she said, “It’s 27 minutes long, but you’ll like it. Watch it.”
So, I did.
The 27 minutes entailed the prospective groom convincing a restaurant that doesn’t usually open on a Saturday night to open on a Saturday night. Then he rigged the scene with enough hidden cameras to tape the impending action from nearly every angle. He then convinced his prospective fiancée to meet him there, even though “he was running late.”
When she arrives to a candle lit empty restaurant, she is seated at a table and a large screen television is rolled out and begins to play in front of her. In dual screen action, the video plays, with a thumbnail screen of the girl watching it. The video first features the soon-to-be-groom going on a syndicated radio program to ask her to marry him. That effort results in a choreographed fail as the equipment malfunctions. Then he dresses in a series of various costumes with backup dancers (also in full costumes) through four lip-syncing performance of four different songs — all deemed to be “not quite right.” Then, he orchestrates a large-scale flash mob that does an intricate routine to “I think I want to marry you.” Also not right.
A car chase scene (in a Porsche) follows the flash mob and, finally, he appears at said restaurant in person and parades all of his and her family members in (with a short break for a video clip of him at the girl’s father’s grave as he asked her dad for permission to marry her). Finally, he asks her to marry him.
The production quality of the video is superb — like the movie it was designed to be, fun to watch and over-the top, but it was pure once-in-a-lifetime craziness.
Let it be known that I am all for guys going all out to make the most of a memorable occasion, but I also believe we need to cut normal guys with normal means some slack and set realistic expectations for the unmarried among us by saying, “Life isn’t like the movies often. There may be a perfect, choreographed moment every now and then, but guys don’t have Porsche car chase scenes to meet you at restaurants they coaxed open based on their charm alone so they can present your favorite flower and promise to whisk you away for a lifetime of perfectness.”
While I wish a lifetime of happiness for that couple and the rest of the budding romances out there, they need to know that very little of real life is like that — and that’s not a bad thing.
Much of life consists of getting up when the alarm goes off, finding clean, unwrinkled clothes, going to work, having a few laughs with friends and loved ones, finding something for dinner and realizing that it’s been a while since you gave the sink a good scrub. Granted, there are some spectacular moments mixed in, but life isn’t choreographed — and as much as you love a guy or a guy loves you, it’s not going to be like the movies often.
Chances are, as long as you’re looking for complete moral and emotional support from a single person, you’ll wind up disappointed and frustrated. Know that going into a relationship and things just work better. No matter how much you love someone, you still need to build and nurture solid relationships with others — and that includes the girl whose fiancé made a 27-minute proposal video!
by Jan in Uncategorized
Sitting at the window where I write, I’ve spent the morning eating a bowl of oatmeal, just like my grandmother used to make (with salt, butter, sugar and milk), remembering old friends, trying to count the leaves as they fall and thinking of poems that I love.
Some might question my productivity, but it’s early still. And at any rate, I’d welcome their questions. An inquiry regarding my morning would give us a chance to discuss the definition of productivity — and poetry too.
So many of us are programmed to go so fast and so far in a day that we mistake the calm and quiet that comes with thinking for indolence. That’s where we’re wrong.
Sitting there and watching falling leaves was good for my brain. Reading poetry was good for my heart.
I fell in love with poetry when I was in the sixth grade. Remember the excitement Scholastic book orders used to bring to rural towns with no other means to buy books? I do. I wasn’t able to order books every time, but in the sixth grade, I started babysitting every now and then. When book ordering time came around, I was flush. I saw a book called, “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle” in the book ordering promotional piece.
Even at 11, I loved words. I couldn’t imagine why someone would have named a book such a crazy title. I had to know and was quirky enough that I didn’t mind pairing my well-earned babysitting cashola with my love for words. So I ordered the book, which turned out to be a collection of poems. On one of the shelves somewhere in my house, I still have the paperback book, its pages crackly and yellowed. Books come easy these days. But when I first got my hands on that book, owning my very own book of poetry lifted my heart and mind.
The book was named after a poem called, “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity,” by John Tobias. My 11-year-old self read that poem over and over again, trying to figure out its mystery. I looked up words I didn’t understand, starting with Felicity in the title. When I learned, felicity meant happiness, I felt like a detective. Suddenly, the poem leapfrogged in meaning and significance, and I got it. It was a poem written by an adult who was remembering his childhood. Here’s an excerpt:
During that summer—
Which may never have been at all;
But which has become more real
Than the one that was–
I ordered that book right about the time the Cincinnati Reds were playing the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. Something about that book and the magic of that World Series reinforced something big I was figuring out. Somehow, that poem led me to savor those moments I recognized as childhood — or at least something fleeting. Not all the time, but there were definite moments that loving poetry at a young age made me appreciate the magic as it was happening more. Maybe I remember more of my own magical years when watermelons ruled because of poetry.
So I believe in sharing that gift with others — particularly kids in rural places that don’t have many opportunities to get up close and personal with poetry. That’s why I’ll spend a significant amount of time volunteering at Festival of Words in St. Landry Parish between Nov. 6 and Nov. 9. Join the fun. Festival of Words does it best to make poetry accessible for more people. They host a variety of events, including our own homegrown hero, former Louisiana Poet Laureate, the great Darrell Bourque. This year the organization is bringing in a variety of poets from all-over, including one of my personal favorites, Naomi Shihab Nye, to do workshops, readings and performances.
If you’d like to join the fun, check out the schedule at www.festivalofwords.org.
by Jan in Uncategorized
Lorin isn’t sure why Halloween used to scare her so much.
It was something about the masks.
By the time she was 27 months old, Lorin was in her fourth foster home. She was born toxic.
Those who know the confident, beautiful and accomplished 15-year-old Lafayette High sophomore struggle to believe the circumstances of her beginnings.
She is first chair clarinet in Lafayette High’s symphonic band. She’s a volleyball standout. She’s in all honors classes (except one) — but more than all of that, she is kind and gentle.
“My birth mom was on drugs through most of her pregnancy. It’s a wonder I’m alive, but then, to have been given talents like music and sports — it’s such a privilege,” she said. “I was adopted.”
And in that last sentence, Lorin believes her blessings began.
She doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her. She credits her parents, Katherine and Keith Prejean, with making the difference in her life. Both of her parents have built their careers on serving others. Katherine earned a Masters in psychology and works with the Louisiana Office of Behavioral Health. Keith works with women and children with HIV AIDS at Acadiana Cares.
“My parents support me, sometimes even when they don’t agree with me,” Lorin said. “They help me — not just because of their jobs. Even outside of their work, they just help people. They care about people. They take care of people in general.
Being around them has shown me how to treat people and what I’m supposed to be as a person.”
Katherine says that when little Lorin came to live with them, she was traumatized for reasons they’ll never fully know or understand. Keith and Katherine fell in love with the little girl and began the process of adoption, which takes a while. When Lorin was 4 and a half, her adoption was final. The one thing she wanted to do to celebrate was go to Chuck E. Cheese. Once there, Lorin was terrified of Chuck E. Cheese.
“She was so afraid of the mouse in the mask,” Katherine said.
Masks in general scared her a lot, but it was Halloween that really got to Lorin most.
“She wanted to celebrate the fun of Halloween, but in the first five years she was with us, she only went trick or treating to two houses,” her mother said. “She wanted to imagine and pretend and be a part of it, but she just couldn’t.”
Years passed and the fun of Halloween eluded Lorin through her trick or treat years.
And then a young brother and sister came along. Lorin was 12, too old to trick or treat, but she was just getting comfortable with the whole scenario.
Her resourceful mom developed a plan. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF raises funds to help save children’s lives in more than 190 countries and territories by providing immunizations, education, health care, nutrition, clean water and sanitation.
After all trick or treat donations have been submitted, UNICEF identifies the countries where these needs are the greatest and reports on the specific programs to which the money has been allocated. All of UNICEF’s work “springs from the belief that we can reach a day when zero children die from preventable causes,” according to their website.
“When Lorin was ready, Trick or Treat for UNICEF was a perfect win-win-win situation for her,” Katherine said.
This Halloween will be her fourth effort to collect funds for UNICEF.
“My mom’s friend was thinking about Halloween ideas. She remembered the UNICEF box and said she would donate $100 if I did it again this year,” Lorin said.
Katherine said her daughter’s shy nature makes the whole experience slightly challenging, but Lorin couldn’t pass up $100 for kids in need.
“My needs are met. I even have extra stuff like volleyball and band. But other people don’t have their basic needs met,” Lorin said. “Collecting money and sending it to children who are struggling — like I could have struggled — makes me feel good. I look at my life and their lives. I know if I could do something to make their lives happier, then that’s what I need to do.”
Katherine said that in the week before Halloween she and Lorin pass out cards in their neighborhood that explain what UNICEF is and that Lorin will be collecting money for them — even pennies. Many of the people 35 and over remember the UNICEF Halloween boxes from their childhood, which also makes the experience easier and more fun.
If Lorin gets change, the family takes it to a CoinStar location. “Lorin puts in her account number and it goes straight to UNICEF. I don’t have to roll or count, and we don’t even have to send it in,” Katherine said.
All Trick or Treat for UNICEF money counted at CoinStar automatically goes to the charitable organization.
“I do this because people who aren’t as privileged as me need help,” Lorin said. “It’s for a good cause. It helps children — and nobody has to donate a lot. A single dollar will go far.”
And in the act of helping others, Halloween isn’t so scary for Lorin anymore.
For more information about Trick or Treat for UNICEF, go to trickortreatforunicef.org.
by Jan in Uncategorized
One side or the other.
My biggest frustration with American politics has been our tendency to polarize the most basic issues rather than finding and building on common ground. I realize that’s easier said than done, but if we continue the political mindset of winning at all costs rather than doing what’s best for our country at large; I wonder where the situation will take us.
As I’ve thought about our country’s political dilemma this week, I remembered a student I met when I was teaching English in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s. He was a refugee living in Slovakia. He was originally from Sarajevo, which at that time was a city in between countries. In 1984, Sarajevo had hosted the Winter Olympics. It had been the picture postcard of global unity and peace.
A mere nine years changed everything.
The student tried in his broken English to tell me his personal story of what was happening in his country, beyond the big fact that the Serbs and Croats were waging a horrible war against each other. To be honest, I can’t remember which side he was on, but at any rate, he was a man without a country.
Thinking that a visual aid might help him with his struggle to explain things, I pulled out a map of his homeland. The moment I unfolded it and he realized what it was, tears began to run down his face. The new European map I had nonchalantly stuffed in my backpack was the first one he had seen of the former Yugoslavia, broken into so many different pieces.
What had been a unified place, even though it was under dire circumstances, was at that point a broken place. He looked at the map a long time before he spoke.
“Here is the strange thing,” he said. “For the first 20 years of my life, we all lived there with no real problems. In one house lived a Serbian family. In the next house was a family of Croatians. Christian. Muslim. It didn’t matter. We were different, but we were one place. Then it all fell apart, and the same neighbors who had lived beside each other and borrowed each other’s sugar were killing each other. I still don’t understand it.”
Neither did I.
Twenty years later, though the scars of war are still there, Sarajevo is lovely again. Wars end. People move on. What was once an issue that caused one countryman to hate another passes.
I wonder if we as Americans have the capacity to work through our differences and move on to a better, more productive place. Turning everyone with different views into an enemy isn’t working out so well for us.
How do we turn this thing around? We’re all here. One side of the political spectrum is not going to persuade the other to join them — just like the people in Sarajevo weren’t going to convert from one religion to another. Do we have to wage war against the other side to work through to an end? Hate, name-calling and mockery are not helping. Is it possible to focus on the common ground more than the differences?
Getting personal, many of us are able to look past the differences we have with people we love, focusing on the reasons we care about them more than we focus on the reasons they drive us crazy. Could we do that on a bigger level?
Can we at least try?
by Jan in Uncategorized
Never mind that it was good enough for Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, there are plenty of other reasons I believe the United States and the vast majority of its students are missing out on the mega-growth opportunity a planned and programmed gap year of service would offer. Gap years between high school and college are standard practice for many in England, though they could occur at the end of college too.
A select few American universities, including Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, applaud the practice and have formal policies and allow students to defer admission. According to the university’s admissions web page, Harvard encourages admitted students to take a year off “to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way,” and has done so for nearly 40 years.
In fact, Harvard’s dean of admissions, William R. Fitzsimmons, has written an article called, Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation. He writes, “It is common to encounter even the most successful students, who have won all the ‘prizes,’ stepping back and wondering if it was all worth it. Professionals in their thirties and forties – physicians, lawyers, academics, business people and others – sometimes give the impression that they are dazed survivors of some bewildering life-long boot-camp. Some say they ended up in their profession because of someone else’s expectations, or that they simply drifted into it without pausing to think whether they really loved their work. Often they say they missed their youth entirely, never living in the present, always pursuing some ill-defined future goal.”
Fitzsimmons goes on to say that the results of having growing numbers of Harvard students take a year off to volunteer, serve others or work on a project have been “uniformly positive.” There are plenty of programs that help match students with volunteer opportunities, which aren’t expensive — certainly much less that the standard first year of college, no matter the college. My point is that taking a year off to go some place different and serve others shouldn’t be limited to fancy-schmacey schools in the Northeast. There is plenty of evidence to show that gap years between high school and college are linked to higher motivation once the student enters higher education.
I believe most students most anywhere would do well to take some time outside the classroom to learn more about the world and how it works — and doing so doesn’t have to break the bank. It just requires planning and the courage to think in a different way. Even of the students heading to Harvard, not all can afford to travel to exotic, far-away places — there are plenty of service opportunities not so far from home too.
If more colleges, counselors and parents encouraged students to take a structured year to serve others between high school and college, who knows what differences it could make? According to the 2013-2014 TOPS Questions and Answers for High School Students and Counselors (revised August 28, 2013), presented by the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, even TOPS offers qualifying students the opportunity to wait until “the first semester following the first anniversary of the date you graduated high school” to enter college until.
Of course, every student entering college is not going to choose to do a gap year, but if colleges made the process easier, more could — and we can’t estimate the difference creating a spirit of service and building stronger work ethics in more students could make.
Furthermore, a gap year doesn’t have to occur the year between high school and college. It could happen any time — after college and before a job, in-between jobs or after your youngest child graduates from high school. Whenever someone chooses to do it, I believe a year of serving others is an opportunity for growth and the chance to make the world a better place.
by Jan in Uncategorized
Last weekend I found myself volunteering near the finish line at a local crosscountry meet. As teens crossed the finish line, they were exhausted, and some collapsed. Even so, my hat is off to them — running multiple miles in the best of conditions is grueling, but doing so in Louisiana’s heat and humidity is mind boggling to me.
Midway through the fifth and final race of the day, two men connected to St. Thomas More High School came to the finish line area, their arms full of faded pink strips of damp looking towels. They were clearly excited and were discussing their girls finishing the race strong. In fact, one of their girls won the race. When she did, one of the men handed her a light pink piece of towel and said, “Put that around your neck. It will feel good and cool you down.”
The exchange occurred less than four feet from me. I wasn’t sure what those towels had been soaked in, but I knew it was something that these fellows considered special and seemed to help the worn out runners. I asked one of them, “What are those towels soaked in?”
One of the gentlemen said, “Florida Water,” in a manner that assured me I was the only one around who had no idea what Florida Water was.
In perfect timing, a lady standing beside me said, “I thought that’s what it was. My grandmother always used it.”
Having spent 12 years in Cajunland, I’ve learned when to keep my mouth shut and when to ask questions. Something about the way they were acting made me think this was some really old something, and for some reason the smell reminded me of my grandmother. I suspected whatever Florida Water was that I’d be better off learning in the privacy of my laptop. The distinctive and mysterious aroma of the towels stayed with me. When I got home, I did some research.
Turns out, there was much to learn about Florida Water. It was, according to Lanman and Kemp, the makers of Florida Water, first produced way back in 1808. In fact, it’s the oldest American cologne still being sold. Florida Water is the American version of Eau de Cologne or Cologne Water. “It has the same citrus basis as Cologne Water, but shifts the emphasis to sweet orange (rather than the lemon and neroli of the original Cologne Water) and adds spicy notes including lavender and clove. The name refers to the fabled Fountain of Youth, which was said to be located in Florida, as well as the ‘flowery’ nature of the scent,” according to Wikipedia.
I wondered where one might find Florida Water, and it turns out that it’s at most every pharmacy. In fact, it’s in a box right on the counter by the register at the one I visited — less than $4 a bottle. The packaging and label are the same design they used back in 1808 (other than the bottle being plastic). I bought some. If it could help the crosscountry runners, I figured I could use some refreshing myself.
In my opinon, it’s heavier on the clove aroma than the floral.
The Internet was full of references to baseball teams in the South using small coolers of ice water with a couple of capfuls of Florida Water to soak towels. They then apply the towels to their pulse points and necks to refresh and cool down — just like they did at the crosscountry meet.
But wait there’s more.
A little more research reveals that Florida Water is also used as a cleanser, as in spirit cleanser. As in, voodoo and other magical practices “spiritual perfume” and in practices of lighting it in a fireproof container and allowing the flame to warm hands to “call money.”
I did not see that coming.
I asked an array of friends if they knew or had used Florida Water. Many of them are big believers in the Florida Water in a cooler with ice water and towels to cool down after tennis, soccer or baseball.
Thankfully, not a one of them mentioned voodoo.
by Jan in Uncategorized
At age 72, my father has come out of retirement for the 17th time. This is his first venture back into the working world that the rest of us didn’t see coming.
My dad leads an active lifestyle. He follows a healthy diet, but even so, he has diabetes and has been unable to get his blood sugar down from a near crisis number recently, despite the insulin. No matter how much he exercised, his blood sugar number recently has been topping 200.
Until three weeks ago.
That’s when he stepped back onto the sidelines.
Albeit on a somewhat familiar field.
The faces of the coaches and players are all new, but he will stand on a sideline from his past, and in doing so he will fulfill one of his dreams. He is beginning a coaching job at his junior college alma mater, East Central Community College.
The sidelines must have some sort of curative powers for him, because in the process of coaching again, he has also lowered his blood sugar. Apparently, coaching is the best thing he can do for his diabetes. The day after he started football coaching again, his blood sugar dropped to 97. He’s not getting any more exercise. He’s not eating any differently. He’s simply coaching again.
Football coaching is so deep in his blood that he missed it down to a cellular level.
Until three years ago, except for a few years here and there, my dad has coached football. For nearly 50 years, he has coached mostly high schoolers, with an occasional junior high team thrown in for good measure. I estimate that he’s coached at least 2,000 football players — but this fall is the first time he’s trying his hand coaching at a junior college.
East Central is in a tiny town called Decatur. Since the day he stepped foot on that campus when he was 18, he says he believes that place to be as close to heaven as one gets on this planet. In the fall of his second year as a student there, he and some friends were watching girls play intramural volleyball. He watched for a while, then leaned over and whispered, “You see, that girl right there?” When his friends said they did, my dad said, “I’m going to marry her.”
At that point he had never spoken to her, but in less than two years, he did, in fact, marry my mom — that girl playing volleyball. He has been grateful ever since. For that reason and more, East Central’s campus is hallowed ground to him.
To be clear, junior colleges, or community colleges as they’re called now, in Mississippi are set up differently than they are in many other states. Fifteen community colleges throughout the state serve different geographic regions, and 14 of them play football — hardcore, rugged stuff.
My dad played football at East Central more than 50 years ago. According to all sources, he was a good player, but not a great one. I don’t know what he was like back then, but I can’t imagine that anyone then or now could love the game much more than he does.