food, health

From Naive 1950s Newlywed to Savvy Great-Granny Certified Medical Marijuana Consumer

I tried to appear nonchalant as I strolled the supermarket aisles looking for the location of brownie mixes.  Nonetheless, I felt self-conscious.  It reminded me of when, as a teen, I bought my first sanitary napkins or later, when I purchased condoms and feminine hygiene products.

Brownie baked with medical marijuana.  © Norine Dresser, photo collection, photo by Mariah Chase, 2014.
Brownie baked with medical marijuana. © Norine Dresser, photo collection, photo by Mariah Chase, 2014.

Who will know what I’m doing?  Will they care what a cane-dependent 82-year-old is tossing into her shopping cart?  Of course not, but in the middle of furtive first acts, paranoia runs high.

Speaking of high, that is exactly what I am NOT seeking.  Instead, I am looking for pain relief.  I have tried everything else but without lasting success: acupuncture, epidural injections under sedation, massage, chiropractic adjustments, herbs, poultices, and worst of all Vicodin.

I used to wake up in the morning in pain with tingling and numbness in my left leg and foot necessitating analgesics and the use of a heating pad.  Involuntary sounds of “ooh, ooh, ooh” escaped me as I hobbled about.  During the day I couldn’t walk very far before leg and back pain forced me to sit down and rest, and by suppertime, the pain struck my upper legs.

Then someone suggested that I try cannabis, medical marijuana, as a pain killer.  Now thanks to ingesting it before bedtime, I can just hop out of bed without discomfort and head directly for the coffee pot.

My family has had such a good time at my expense.  My son calls me “pot-head” and my brother addresses me as his “stoner-sister.”  I laugh with them because I am so grateful to have found something that brings relief.

The delicious irony of all this is that when our children were hippies, my late husband and I constantly warned them about the fictitious danger of using pot.  Naively, we advised, “Just say no.”  Now they are laughing at me and asking, “What would Dad have thought about your taking marijuana?”

My guess is that he would support my decision to take a pain killer that is less toxic than prescribed narcotics, has few side effects, and offers reprieve from suffering.


Norine Dresser is a folklorist, award-winning columnist for the Los Angeles Times and retired university faculty member:

aging, customs/rituals, death, folklore

What Will Happen to All Your Stuff?

I know I am not alone in wondering, “What will happen to all my stuff after I die?”

There is no problem about disposing of heirloom jewelry, valuable artwork, good china.
The family will snap up those items.

Multicultural Wedding Artifacts.  © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.  See explanation in following paragraph.
Multicultural Wedding Artifacts. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014. See explanation in following paragraph.

What I am concerned about are the photos, the books, old LPs, even 78s, the tchotchkes (artifacts to some).  As a folklorist, I have collected plenty of those.  As one example, I have numerous items from multicultural weddings: Iranian sugar cones (to grind together over the newlyweds’ heads for a sweet life); 13 gold coins in a small container for Mexican weddings (as a promise that the groom will support his bride); a rope lasso tied around Filipino brides and grooms (demonstrating that they are now yoked together); Greek Orthodox pearl studded wedding crowns (for unity); Vietnamese red satin cloth for wedding guests to sign; Korean carved wooden ducks ( symbol of fidelity).

When I moved from Los Angeles to Las Cruces, I donated 700 books to two different universities.  One used them to raise money to buy new books while the other actually placed them on the shelves in a new folklore library.  I also donated my spinet piano to a local music school.  Recycling these objects made me very happy.

Collection of embossers on display at the IHSF.
Collection of embossers on display at the IHSF, Mesilla Park, NM.

Here in Las Cruces, NM, I discovered a place to donate some of my artifacts in a temperature-controlled secure facility.  Called the Institute of Historical Survey Foundation (IHSF), the organization collects the kinds of objects described above plus photos, maps, recordings, books and official records.  Eventually, they will construct a museum to display these items and house visiting scholars.

Camera Collection on display at IHSF, Mesilla Park, NM.
Camera Collection on display at IHSF, Mesilla Park, NM.

What especially works for me is that over the decades I have taken thousands of 35mm photos of different folkloristic events: a bar mitzvah, acupuncture and moxibustion treatments; a Passover seder; a Bulgarian woman making yogurt; Japanese children’s traditional music  and  dance lessons; a Mexican mariachi rehearsal; a Chilena demonstrating how to make empanadas.

I volunteer at IHSF weekly entering information about these ritual activities into the foundation’s database  Next the organization will scan the slides, and finally they will be available online to anyone researching these topics.

Otherwise, what would happen to this precious information — at least precious to me and other scholars and students?  The alternative is that after my death, they would be divided among my heirs and end up in garages and closets, unused, and eventually they would deteriorate.  What a waste!

Having my research live on makes my past work life worthwhile.  Even though it may be painful to think about such issues, it is important that we plan for future generations and how to contribute to their learning about what happened in our lifetimes.

What plans have you made?

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who recognizes that time’s a wasting and wants her work to live on.

customs/rituals, folklore, food, holidays

Q: When Is A Piece of Cake Not Just A Piece of Cake?

A:  When the piece of cake you receive from a King Cake contains one tiny plastic baby,  representing Jesus.  And if the cake is a New Orleans style King Cake and you discover the plastic baby in your slice, you will not only wear a crown, but you will be called upon to host the next party.

New Orleans King Cake, with Mardi Gras beads decoration and Crown in the background.  © Photo by Mariah Chase, text by Norine Dresser, 2014
New Orleans King Cake with Mardi Gras beads decoration and Crown in the background. © Photo by Mariah Chase, text by Norine Dresser, 2014

King Cakes are eaten on January 6 and symbolize the arrival of the three Wise Men or Kings to Bethlehem after the birth of Christ.  This date is also known as Epiphany or Twelfth Night.  Because the Wise Men bore gifts for the Holy Infant, in some places in the world, Christmas gifts are not given until this date.

Cultural variations exist.  In France, they also have a replica of a baby placed inside the cake, but the cake has no special icing on top.  In great contrast, in New Orleans they add colorful frosting:  purple (for justice), gold (for power), and green (for faith).  Sometimes they adorn the cake with colored Mardi Gras beads (made in China).

New Orleans King Cakes are eaten from January 6 until Lent.  However, the Mexican style of King Cake is primarily served on January 6.  Called Rosca de los Reyes (round cake of the kings), it differs in appearance as well as ingredients.  The  Rosca is basically a coffee cake that may contain raisins, walnuts, candied cherries, grated orange and lemon peel.  Like the New Orleans style, it is round to represent a king’s crown, but the New Orleans King Cake is made of brioche style bread and filled with cream cheese or fruit.

Generally, the Rosca is served at the evening meal on Epiphany and the person who discovers the baby Jesus in his or her slice must host the Feast of Candelaria or Purification, held on February 2, when they eat tamales and drink hot chocolate.

Here in Las Cruces, NM, with its large Mexican and Mexican American population, Roscas are easily available in Mexican markets as well as Albertson’s.  However, supermarkets  do not carry the New Orleans King Cake.  I had to purchase the one pictured above from an authentic French bakery that carried both the traditional French version as well as the New Orleans variation.

Bakeries worry about the liability presented by a plastic small object hidden in a cake.  Not only do they verbally forewarn customers about the plastic baby and its potential as a choking hazard, but warnings are printed on the box as well.

The above are but three examples of cakes that have a special function represented by objects being baked inside or added afterward.

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is a big fan of New Orleans style King Cakes.