When ‘Mother’s little helper’ had crust

I just called my mama to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. Knowing that she wouldn’t ‘get’ the Rolling Stone’s song reference on the gift I sent her, I figured I needed to explain the hooty little pill-box (as shown). I was right and when I mentioned Valium she said, “OH! Heehee…”pill box

During our conversation I mentioned that the anniversary of my marriage to #1 was last week, and Mama asked if I knew what August the 9th was. I couldn’t think of anything.

“That’s the day I married your father…August 9th, 1957.”

Naturally, I immediately started doing the math…let’s see…I was born May 14th of 1958…almost exactly 9 months.

“You weren’t pregnant when you got married, were you?” I asked. (I’ve always sort of assumed that she was, but I’d never asked her outright.)

“NO,” she said, using two syllables. “You were an early baby.”

“I was?” That actually surprised me since I’ve never even been on time to anything I can remember, much less early.

“Yep, the doctors told me that if I didn’t lose a lot of weight, they were going to put me in the hospital until you were delivered. So I just went ahead and had you before my next appointment!”

I had to sit on that news for a minute. My 4’11” mama weighed 98 pounds when she got pregnant with me and (according to her) she pretty much doubled her weight while carrying me (she claims that whole pies trembled and then disappeared in her presence). Naturally, when given the choice to (A) Stop eating treats or (B) Go into early labor and shoot me out into the world early…well, duh. I didn’t have to do the math on that one!

I love you, Mama. You’ve taught me so many lessons just by being who you are, and I know how hard you always worked to keep Lynnie and me happy. And now I know exactly where I got my addiction love for food!

Happy Mothers Day ya’ll!

 

I was a flounder…er

Growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s meant fish on Fridays for many families, especially those who had Roman Catholic roots like my granddaddy’s. Because we grew up in my grandparent’s home, every Friday night was fish night. Every. Friday. For. Years.

Even days were covered, and Fridays were fish stick days in the school lunch world. Not that I don’t totally enjoy a tasty, crunchy, overly processed Gorton’s treat from time to time, but even good things can get boring after a while. When we were lucky, our family went out for dinner on Fridays (I assume to avoid fish sticks for two meals in a row), and we sometimes had supper at the S&S Cafeteria. It was an honest-to-God old-school affair, complete with a huge stack of brown plastic trays, still damp from someone’s efforts to wipe them down.

Just past the mountains of trays was the salad area, a primarily greyish-white wave of lettuce wedges punctuated by the occasional shiny, wobbly, Jello-like square, complete with pineapple, nuts or mystery veggies. (I notice that I can’t seem to bring myself to use the words Jello + salad in the same grouping). Then there were the popular mayonnaise-based ‘salads’ – potato and macaroni versions being the most popular. I, however, had my own favorite pseudo-salad…grated carrots with sugary raisins and mayo. I thought it much healthier than the other non-lettuce options and I could live off of the stuff. I will admit though that I was really disappointed years later when I learned that this delicacy was laughable in the salad world…a sort of embarrassing distant cousin.

Continuing down the long narrow line, you next encountered the rows of steam-tabled veggies. First were the green items (keep movin’…nothin’ to see here), followed by the extensive, oh-so-Southern representation from the carb family. Macaroni and cheese, corn, white rice with gravy, mashed potatoes and candied sweet potatoes were plentiful, and don’t forget the hush-puppies and french fries…also popular ‘veggie’ choices at the old S&S. Those were the days…we were ignorantly on the not-yet-identified diabetic path with a vengeance, and ‘all you can eat’ was the short-cut!

Then we were on to the MEAT! You could choose from the beefy (hamburger steak…really?), chicken (meh) and fishy options. We were supposed to get the fish to appease the Catholic side of the family and, luckily for me, fried shrimp qualified! Shrimp weren’t always available, but it was a happy day for me when they were. Fried flounder with a big side of tartar sauce was my second choice…if you gotta have anything healthy at least slap some breading and (slightly disguised) mayo on it, I say. Funny…I don’t remember any pork being present, but I’m pretty sure it was there in abundance.

Next came the bread, dessert and drink selections. For me, cornbread was a given, and it had enough sugar in it that it probably should have been pushed a foot over into the dessert area. For real dessert I was always torn between strawberry shortcake (featuring somewhat plasticine whipped topping) and a slice of (not too shabby) coconut cream pie, but there were also other options. You could go fruity (not technically a dessert in my world) or choose an alien-like green or blue dish (welcome back to the table, Jello old friend).

I was also pretty predictable in the beverage department. It was, after all, the heyday of good old sweet tea in that part of the world, but the S&S also offered a few others to pick from. If you were really brave, you could even wash down your feast with neon-blue generic Kool-aid. (I have personally never believed that blue foods or beverages were a real choice, but Lynnie was partial to anything that looked even remotely like Windex. She also gravitated toward oddly colored desserts and anything with Jello-like qualities.)

It was a great spread, but I’ll have to say that I was never completely comfortable with the logistics of the cafeteria world. Until I was about 10 I wasn’t even trusted to manage my own tray – I had to rely on my Grandmama’s well-honed tray-wrangling skills as she pushed my plastic platter of goodness along, in front of her own. She did allow me to choose my own food, but often prompted me to ‘hurry up’ when I dilly-dallied too long over my options (“But Grandmama, I swore I saw that carrot salad somewhere!”) She also backed me up when my extreme shyness prevented me from piping up to ask the lady behind the counter if there really were no more fried shrimp left anywhere…maybe in the back?

Sometime before puberty I gained full tray responsibilities…I had arrived! Lynnie, on the other hand, still had to take a back seat for a few more years as Mama guided her tray and, often, her food choices. Had she not, my sweets-loving sister would have ended up with an entire tray of jewel-toned, wobbly items that would, in today’s world, have probably initiated a child protective custody situation. And that doesn’t even take into account the time that some strange man came out of the S&S’s men’s room with my 5-year-old sister in tow. She had apparently wandered in on her own…I’m guessing sugar and red dye #5 were at least partially to blame.

Not sure I'd trust that one...

♪ “Trust the Gorton’s Fisherwoman” ♪

You have the right to remain…boring

So here’s the thing…I want to write. I need to write. I LIKE to write…but I got nothin’. I make lists, jot down random thoughts while in the grocery store, keep a dream dictionary, record strange non sequitur blog ideas, and then randomly just sit and start typing. I do all the things that have given me ample ammo in the past…but nothing sticks.

I tend to get hung up on feeling that, in order to justify doing this bloggy thing, I really need to have something to say. Something WORTH saying…something that a reader might find interesting, humorous or even annoying. Hell, I can only pray for those posts that might possibly even make coffee come out of someone’s nose…sigh.

But here I sit, whining that my once oh-so-sparkly life feels (dare I say it?) a bit normal. I have a regular old office job now, great friends, too many bills, two crazy cats and no boy friend. (Actually, that last one isn’t really so bad, considering some of the men I’ve let into my life in the past!) Just the same, all this normal is making this former ‘better strange than boring’ mantra’d gal just a little bit nervous.

Hell, the most excitement around here this week was wrasslin’ with Pickle to get him to the vet. (I only sustained a few scratches this time…the first vet trip for this boy with none of my blood drawn.) He actually broke out of one carrier (the cheap one) and I had to rummage around in the basement to find the smaller anti-Houdini version that he outgrew a while back. Then came the minor miracle of me stalking the wily beast with a pillow case, catching him for a second time, then successfully muscling him into his personal jail cell. It certainly wasn’t boring.

PICKLE IN JAIL

I started thinking that maybe the lesson here is that normal isn’t really so bad. Then I took another look at that face, and I decided it’s much more likely that the real lesson is that there’s nothing normal about Pickle.

NOTHING.

Rules of the road

I haven’t lived this long without picking up a few important things worth sharing. Here are some simple rules that I live by:

  • Never. Drink. Tequila.
  • Shake hands like you mean it…that limp girly thing is just nasty.
  • Never buy a piece of clothing that comes with jewelry already attached to it.
  • Don’t expect a confirmed liar to ever tell you the truth.
  • Know how to cook at least one meal that will impress company.
  • Understand that, if everyone threw their troubles out onto a pile on the floor, you really would pick your own right back up. (Thanks for that one, Grandmama.)
  • If someone tells you you’re pretty, just hush up and accept the compliment.
  • Don’t ever wear leggings without something covering up your important parts (or you won’t get any compliments to accept).
  • If all else fails and you have to lie…do it big. (Especially if you’ve been drinking tequila.)
  • Always wear a bra to work. (I stole that one, but it’s too important to forget!)
  • Sometimes all you actually have to do is breathe.
  • Floss those damn teeth!
  • Love yourself first.
  • That 3rd helping only sounds like a good idea.
  • Go ahead and dance…you’ll probably never even see those fools again. (Warning…disregard this one if there’s been any tequila involved.)
  • Learn to say no.
  • You can set as many alarms as you want, but it’s all about eventually getting your ass out of that bed.
  • A blinker doesn’t turn a car. (Thank you, Mama.)
  • Don’t leave until the credits are over.
  • You deserve top shelf liquor. Just no tequila…seriously.
necklace shirt

Just say “NO!”

Get me a bottle…

I have a somewhat motley collection of old glass bottles lined up along the back windows of my house. I’m obsessed with them. Some I bought in thrift or self-proclaimed antique stores, a few came from garage sales, and one was found in the garage of my current home. Some of the bottles are just pretty, but a few have some interesting history: Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing, Watkins tonics and extracts of all types, and a real prize…Chamberlain’s Colic-Cholera-Diarrhea Remedy (seriously….CHOLERA?)

Oh Lydia

Female troubles indeed!

My absolute favorite though is my Lydia Pinkham’s bottle. This ‘vegetable compound’ was for female trouble of all sorts, including pain, oversensitivity in young girls, listlessness, nervous breakdown and…shudder…Social Tragedy.

One bottle that I’ve always wanted and don’t yet have is for a product that my Grandmama told me about many years ago: Hadacol. She laughed when she told me about this magical snake oil that used to be popular in the South. The packaging stated that the tonic was ‘A dietary supplement for increasing appetite and promoting proper growth, especially for growing children. Promotes normal regularity, improves appetite, give you a new zest for life.” Grandmama said that it was mostly alcohol and, to sell it down South, “they hadda call it somethin’!”

Hadcol

Honey, that baby’s cryin’ agin….we best git us some more o’ that medicine!

It turns out the stuff was 12% alcohol (as a preservative), and they threw in some other ingredients that supposedly made it hit the bloodstream more quickly than normal alcohol, so I’m not sure if those growing children had good appetites or not, but I’ll bet they slept like logs!

Less of me around

And no, I’m not writing about my recent lack of writing. I’m working on that even as we speak! This time I’m writing about my favorite subject…ME.

I’ve talked before about having been a bigger girl most of my life. By the 5th grade I was 5’1″ and (almost) towered over my 4’11” mama. I already had a womanly shape, complete with boobs and the accompanying embarrassment over needing a bra before the other girls in my grade did. It took me years to understand the power of those curves, as well as to realize that they could betray me if left to their own devices…it’s a sad, sad tale.

By high school I was still shapely, but in a bigger boned sort of way. I still loved my southern food (hello, Banana Puddin’…I wish I knew how to quit you), and I never was one for sports. By the time I got to college and met my new best friend Michelob, I had been introduced to a whole new set of adventures and opportunities for getting even fluffier.

Curves aheadIt turns out that there’s a point for some of us when voluptuousness can take a left turn down a dark road called Chunky Lane… a byway littered with empty SnackWell and Quarter Pounder wrappers, Halloween candy bowls with only the nasty orange-colored marshmallow things left at the bottom, and the occasional half-drunk can of Slimfast. It’s a path that I’ve known intimately my entire life.

In my twenties I stumbled into one of those give us your money and we’ll give you nasty food that will make you skinny companies. I gave them a chunk of change, lost 10 pounds and crashed so badly from a potassium deficiency that the word attorney was actually thrown around (to no avail). Not being one to learn give up that easily, a few years back I tried yet another diet plan that involved plastic (both the food and the payments). I figured, hell, if it’s good enough for Marie Osmond, who am I to judge? Much to my surprise, I was miserable on the plan and couldn’t get past 10 pounds, and the counselor kept looking at me and shaking her head. Let’s just say that Marie wouldn’t have been very happy to see me eating about 10 bags of those teeny tiny cardboard cookies at one sitting!

It’s now been about 8 years since that last foray into $$$ for pounds. I started thinking recently about how my eating might be affecting me and somehow, in spite of myself, I managed to figure out that eating entire bags of ‘baked not fried’ carbs, adding just a little sugar to my morning coffee and hitting the Burger King once or twice a week might actually be a real problem…who knew?! What I did know for sure was that my curves were leaving Chunky Lane in the dust and Butterball Acres was coming up fast on the right. I had to get serious.

As it turns out, it’s not food in general that I have a problem with…it’s sugar. No, I’m not diabetic yet, but that was looming on the horizon, so I cut out all processed sugar, artificial sweeteners and am severely limiting my total carbs (oh bread and taters…you betrayed me!) On my new plan my old pal known as ‘The First 10 Pounds’ came off, just like it always has…but this time was somehow different. Once I got past the I’m definitely going to hurt someone if I don’t have a candy bar phase, things started falling into place for me. I stuck to it and am now hitting the 20 pound mark. I certainly have a long way to go, but I feel so much better that it’s easy to stay focused.

At this point I’m just setting the GPS for straight ahead…and we won’t be stopping at the Krispy Kreme.

 

The Meemaw Chronicles

Let’s just get this out there: I’m not a grandmother.

I guess that may have something to do with the fact that I was never even a mother. To top that off, I’ve never even had a successful relationship with a man who has kids or grand kids. I don’t necessarily think that I’m child-averse, but it just never worked out.

Not having children in my life (other than a niece, nephew and the kids of a few friends) hasn’t really been an issue for me, but I definitely realize that I’ve missed out on a lot of things. On the plus side, I never had to deal with diapers, croup or the terrible 2’s, but to balance that out, I’ve never known what it is to be someone else’s whole world (even if it’s only for a few years). The worst part, I believe, is that I’ve never known the truly unconditional love that parents must feel. Yes, I’ve had the luxury of being able to be selfish in some of my life choices because I never really had to put anyone else’s interests before my own…but that freedom came with a cost.

My choices have also left me without the chance to pick (or be assigned) a sweet grandmotherly nickname. It’s interesting to me that these names have changed so much over the years. Whatever happened to Gramma, Grammy and the sweet old lady monikers we grew up with? Now it’s all YaYa, GiGi, MiMi and a host of other reduplicates, along with some that are designed to be NON-grandma names…I submit to you Glamma, G-Mom and Honey.  Not that some of these aren’t cute as hell, but who is actually coming up with these names…the grand kids or the matriarch?

My immediate family when I was growing up had fairly normal names for our grandmothers. My mother’s mother was called ‘Nana’ (pronounced Na-naw) when I was little, and ‘Grandmama’ later (after I started caring what other people heard me calling her). Her sister (my great-aunt) was known to everyone as ‘Nana’ with the traditional elegant-sounding pronunciation . It became a sort of vaulted title that suited her perfectly.

But then somehow, out of nowhere, came the name my nephew bestowed on my mother: Meemaw. It stuck like day-old grits and now that’s her NAME…she has become Meemaw to the world! I realize that this is a term of endearment that periodically surfaces in Southern culture, but I’d never heard it used before, and at first…well, at first it scared me a little. How could my sweet little Mama be someone’s MEEMAW? Now though, 30 years later with her grand kids all grown up, Meemaw suits my mama just fine.

We just found out that one of Meemaw’s now grown-up grand kids is going to have her own child. It’s exciting to know that my sister is going to be a Nana, or MuMu or maybe just a LynnieG. Whatever she (or the new little one) decide that she should be called, I know that my amazing little sister will simply be the best grandmama out there. Congratulations Lynnie!

Hmmm…maybe I need to establish a new tradition that requires great-aunts to have cool names too. Then I might just insist that the grandkids call me….wait for it….

 

TEEMAW!

Meemaw

Stolen, so please excuse the spelling!