Friday, December 25, 2015

It was a ZOTZ Kind of Christmas


Do you know what a ZOTZ is?

This is what a ZOTZ looks like:
 
 

And this is what a ZOTZ tastes like:
 
Let me describe them to you. ZOTZ are a tangy hard candy that is filled with a powdery crushed alka seltzer type substance that, when it comes in contact with your saliva, explodes with such a taste bud crushing flavor that your saliva glands spasm with ecstasy. It is... an ORGASM IN YOUR MOUTH.
 
I never got ZOTZ as a kid. We didn't have much money in fact, for the first several years of my life in the 60's and 70’s I would call us downright poor. I can remember one Christmas when someone put us on a “Toys for Tots” kind of list and free presents were brought to us. My dad's ego and pride were crushed and I still can't remember if we were allowed to keep the presents. All I remember is that he was humiliated.
 

I can remember a carpet so thin you could see the floor through it and the upholstery on our couch was so worn that the stuffing threatened to push through but my 3 brothers and I were fed and watered regularly and to tell you the truth, I didn't think much of my meager existence. My mother had created a happy, loving and fulfilling home.
 

There was a place in my hometown near Bancroft school named Pilkington’s. It was a small neighborhood grocery that was filled with the most exotic candy I had ever seen.
 
There were….
Big Red Wax lips you could hold between your teeth then chew on the wax till you were so disgusted you spit it out;
Wax soda bottles filled with a liquid that did not taste like soda at all.
You could chew on these too but why would you?
Hey, what was with the idea of wax for candy in the 60’s and 70’s anyway? 
There were candy cigarettes rolled in paper and powdered sugar so when you blew on them, a little tuft of smoke would puff out
(No wonder my generation smoked so much);
Ice Cubes;
Space Dust;
Bottle Caps
and Candy Buttons which were really just drops of hard, dried colored sugar… disgusting!
 

I would walk to Pilkington’s with my friends and I’d watch them, their pockets filled with cash from their parents. They would take their time, looking at every candy and laboring over the burden of having to choose just one.
 

So that no one knew I was poor, I would look over the candy too and act like I was having trouble choosing which candy to buy but the difference was that my pockets were empty and if my father caught me at Pilkington’s I was quite certain it would result in a sound beating and possible death.
 

In the end, I would act like I simply just couldn’t chose and to perpetuate the lie if offered candy, I would kindly refuse and say I wasn’t in the mood for sweets. As a result each of the few times I went to Pilkington’s, I ended up with no candy at all.
 

The one candy I most envied and found it very hard to say no to was called ZOTZ. If I remember right they came in strips of 10 for a quarter (I think they were a dime at one time but it was the 70’s and inflation affected candy too). When you wanted a ZOTZ, you just tore one off the end of the strip, popped it in your mouth and slobbered till the candy popped open and the fireworks began.
 

My ZOTZ experience was very limited…
 

A couple of years ago shortly after I started dating Scott, I told him the story of Pilkington’s and described a ZOTZ. He had a hard time imagining this candy or the reason for any enjoyment in the experience of eating it.  Thanks to the Internet I was able to search for images of ZOTZ and show him what they looked like.
 
“When was the last time you ate a ZOTZ?” he asked.  I told him the truth. It had been decades and only a handful of times.
 

By the time I was earning my own money and could spend it like I wanted to I had moved on to more mature things like wine and cigarettes.
 

I had left Pilkington’s, ZOTZ and childish things behind….
 

“When what to my wondering eyes should appear but a can full of ZOTZ and some laughter and tears”
 

The first present I opened from Scott this Christmas was this tin container.

 

It is hippy dippy like me but I was unimpressed by the package. I wasn’t going to be setting this out on the coffee table so I suspected that there was some dark chocolate mint thing inside.
 

When I opened the tin, I found this instead.

 

It was a lifetime supply of ZOTZ! Six flavors! It looked like hundreds, maybe thousands of ZOTZ!
 

Scott has proved over and over that he is the ultimate gift giver. He has outdone himself this year and brought me the kind of joy that makes you feel like a kid again. This gift made the adult Lizzie cry and the child Lizzie laugh all at the same time. Then he drizzled the entire emotion with love when I looked up and saw the excitement in his face. I could tell he felt little again too. His smile was huge as he clapped his hands and jumped up and down with me.
 

Moments like these make me wonder if Scott himself is the best gift he has ever given.
 

Mr. Pilkington and his wife have certainly passed away by this time. They were old when I was young.  Last I knew an old friend of mine, Mike Swanson had purchased the Pilkington’s store building and adjacent home. I had a chance to see it several long years ago and the old store has been converted into a man cave style garage which is very cool but it was a little sad to stand in there with the memories I had and know I would never have the opportunity to go in there with a pocket full of cash and buy my own ZOTZ.
 

I had forgotten most of these memories until last night when I opened the tin that held the candy from a man who is the sweetest gift of all.
 


Peace and Love,

Lizzie Flower


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Where I Get My Faith From

Well, another RAGBRAI is looming on the horizon. This will be my fourth in a row and I doubt if I'll ever get sick of the ride, the people and the atmosphere. I will be riding with Team Pez for the third year in a row and they are an amazing group of individuals. This is year 15 for the team so I wouldn't miss it for the world. I love them all.

This is the crew that started last year and although we have some people who join us for a day or two or leave early, there is a core group that does the whole week which ended up being 7 days of riding and over 450 miles if you do the extra Karras Loop.

In  2012, while training for RAGBRAI, I met Pat, a member of Team Pez. I could tell by the size of his quads (thighs), that he was probably a cyclist and then when we started chatting, I found out that he rides RAGBRAI every year. I told him how I was planning to ride it with my brother's family that year and how nervous and excited I was. I explained to him that I was not certain that I could take on the ride because I was at a place in my riding where my legs would cramp if I rode more than 30 miles and most of the days were 70-80 miles. I had very little confidence in myself and my ability to ride a bike across the state of Iowa.

Over the next several weeks, Pat gave me encouraging words that reassured me that the ride was something I could do. When I would talk negative, he would roll his eyes, make a "psss" sound and fling his hand at me with a brush it off kind of attitude and then he would tell me a story about people he had seen complete the ride, how fun it was and he would make me feel like the ride was attainable.

By the time the actual ride came, I was so nervous I could not even sleep. Pat had given me his team information and I had given him mine (we weren't riding for the same team at that time). The evening before the ride started, Pat showed up at our camp site and again gave me words of encouragement and let me know that he was there for me and then he asked me if he could ride with me at some point in time. I knew I couldn't keep up with him but I agreed to try.

When morning arrived, I departed with my brother's family and we decided to stop at Farm Boys, home of the famous breakfast burrito. If you decide to ride, veterans will advise you to have one of these burritos. We were less than 15 miles into the ride when we decided to stop and we had the good fortune to run into Pat and members of Team Pez there.


Here is a picture we took on that day. Now, bear in mind, I'd already lost 70 or 80 lbs. when this picture was taken. I always refer to this picture when I'm not sure whether or not I should have gotten my arms reduced. It looks like I'm packing around a plastic bag full of creamed corn in each sleeve.

Pat asked me to ride with him so I reluctantly let my family ride on and Pat rode with me. He mostly rode ahead of me, constantly keeping an eye on me and chatting and laughing with other riders.

He chatted with me too about all the things I'd need to do over the next 7 days and all the food vendors and activities I shouldn't miss. Every day of RAGBRAI, the Iowa Conservation people have a place where you can stop, get some cold water and a free banana. Pat talked me into stopping with him and we shared a water and banana. As we sat on the side of that hill, surrounded by cyclists, I confessed my lack of confidence to him without explanation and he talked to me about cycling and human relationships in general. The man has a million funny stories. All the time he was talking I felt a little guilty because I had a little secret. I had lost a lot of weight by that time but I had a long way to go. I felt like he couldn't possibly understand the journey I was on and I was ashamed to have to admit I didn't believe in myself.

I was never proud to say I'd lost 80 lbs when it was so obvious I had a long ways to go so I always kept silent. It was a secret I was too proud to tell. After mustering up some courage, I brought out this picture which is my official before photo. Yuck...


Pat, being a smooth easy going cowboy type, didn't flinch. He just scanned the photo, told me he admired what I'd done and continued talking about the different people he has seen cycle across the state. He talked about people with no legs or arms, people who were older or heavier than I was at the time who had done this ride. I listened with all my attention and wondered how this man, a near stranger could have more faith in me than I had in myself.

Since that day, I'm more open about the changes I have made in my life and I've learned to be proud of the journey I've taken instead of wallowing in the shame of my past mistakes, primarily my relationship with food.

This picture was taken in April 2015.


Pat looks exactly the same nearly three years later but I look a little different...like 70 pounds lighter and that jersey is certainly less clingy.

Even after all this time, all these miles, all these pounds, I feel like Pat is still the source of my faith in myself. He still encourages me when I'm uncertain and he still makes me feel like I can do just about anything I set my mind to and that I deserve to enjoy the results of my efforts.

I don't know if you have a Pat in your life but if you don't, I suggest you go out and find one. Listen to him and until you have faith in yourself, let his faith in you give you strength.

I am forever grateful.

Peace and Love,

Lizzie Flower

"It's not pain, it's progress"