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” ♪

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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!”

Teacher’s pet on steroids

"Come on, you know you're just projecting..."

“Come on, you know you’re just projecting…”

I was wandering through a Goodwill store the other day when I ran across one of these dinosaurs. For those of you not from the era of mimeographed handouts (with that weirdly addicting, shiny-blue chemical smell that couldn’t possibly be good for you), or if the fun of turning the egg-beater-like handle of the requisite manual pencil sharpener at the front of the classroom is lost on you, this contraption ———> is an overhead projector.

 

These beauties were used to share super important information…like this:

Important stuff

Hey Jimmy…we can’t see THROUGH you!

 

 

 

School was pretty different back then. (And yes, I’ll see that bet and raise you a, “Hey you kids, get outta my yard!”)

 

 

One thing that probably hasn’t changed in the classroom though is that annoying kid who sits in the front row and seems to always have their hand up…you know the one. hand up

Well, let me just tell you, it’s not EASY being that kid! I would keep that hand up in the air until I sometimes thought my arm would fall off!

Eventually, that eternal hand in the air syndrome morphed into all of the telltale signs of a geeky teacher’s pet: refusing to cut school (even when threatened with bodily harm), being the kid chosen make bulletin boards or run to the office to deliver messages, and the one most likely to be left in charge when the teacher left the room on business (smoke ’em if you got ’em, boys).

In case you ever wondered what happened to those annoying kids, well, this one just recently found out her Myers-Briggs scores during a training event at work. It turns out that the Extrovert part of ENFP can be somewhat…um, I think the word the Introverts used was EXHAUSTING. They also mentioned something about having to fight to get in a few words during classroom…, um, I mean office discussions. Of course, I was so busy trying to get the instructor’s attention that I may have missed a few details. Maybe I’ll be able to do some extra credit follow-up…or at least buy the boss a latte.

 

 

 

 

How I’m the Cesar Milan of exes

Being a cat lady in training, I usually write about feline critters, but hubby #2 and I actually had two cats and a dog. Not being a particularly active couple, we should probably have gotten a puppy that would happily grow into a couch potato (like us), or so Animal Planet (and common sense) would tell you. Naturally, we instead opted for an incredibly hyper, Mensa-qualified Australian Shepherd who was more neurotic than I am. We named her Callie, short for the name in the old Louis Jordan song (“Caldonia! Caldonia! What makes your big head so hard?”) I had no idea how appropriate it would end up being, that’s for sure!

To add fuel to that smoldering inferno-to-be, #2 truly believed that it was a dog’s job to bark at strangers and to protect us. Yep, this 6’4″ almost 300 pound man needed a 40 pound dog to guard US. By the age of a year and a half, our little Callie was a noisy, annoying, obnoxious dog who spent a lot of time herding me around the house. (Her favorite was to try to drag me by the hem of my bathrobe, but jeans would suffice. There was also a lot of good old heel nipping.) A few times she tried to back-foot me out of bed, so that she could be with her man! #2 would just laugh and laugh at our problem child.

Callie

This is what I was dealing with…yeah, she looks cute in this Glamour Shot, but looks are deceiving!

The duo spent a lot of time together while I was at work (and they…um…weren’t), so my efforts to enforce order (or at least reason) were pretty much useless. I often came home to find them sitting on the living room floor howling together like wolves, or passed out on the couch in each other’s arms (at least #2 was the only one of the two sporting a purple Merlot mustache). Callie’s giant Alpha would have fierce tug-of-war games with her, encouraging her growls and nips…it was a runaway train.

We took Callie the Fierce to doggy daycare for a while, but it was expensive and the folks who worked there said that she rarely played much with the other dogs…she just sat on the sidelines and whined. We stopped taking her there…or much of anywhere actually…because any time she rode with us she would herd other cars while in our car, actually crashing into the windows! We conveniently lived just down the street from a dog park, so we took her there daily to help run some of the crazy hyper out of her. Well, we took her for a while, but she eventually started attacking any dog that came near us. It was at that point that I decided that we needed to do some real training, in spite of #2’s protests.

I found a trainer who would come to our house (no driving!) and I threw myself into working with her to try to bring Ms. Callie back from the dark side. #2 joined in for a bit during the first lesson, but he grew impatient pretty quickly and gave up. (I think it was about the time that the trainer turned to us and said, “I don’t know what you two were thinking, but you do NOT need to have a dog…at least not THIS ONE.”)

I didn’t give up though. This woman knew her stuff, and pretty soon she had my terrible dog sitting quietly. Within a few hours she taught Callie to stop whatever she was doing by using one command: CONTROL. I was stunned…just like those crazed dog owners that Cesar Milan helps on TV! I was thanking her for her work when she took me aside, looked around to make sure #2 wasn’t listening, looked me straight in the eye and said, “You know…these training tips work on PEOPLE TOO. I’m not telling you your business, but you should try them on…um…people.”

Over time I sorted out the mysteries of how this sweet dog got turned into a mess (naturally submissive, forced into an aggressive state, too smart to not have a job…the list is long). Callie ended up being much better after she and I learned her magic word, but it only worked for me…#2 never picked it up. I could get her to stay put, drop whatever I didn’t want her to have, or stop growling by just using a word, while my husband just mumbled under his breath about how I had ruined his dog.

I tried to follow the trainer’s advice about using the training tips in other other ways, but I never quite mastered any trick to get #2 to behave or to be happy. What I eventually did figure out was the word that worked best for ME: “Goodbye.”

Epilogue:

Callie went on to live in New Jersey with her grandmother and her Alpha. I’m told that she once chased a moving car until her face caught it and she lost a canine tooth. She supposedly had a good (if not CONTROLLED) life.

I now have a dog who comes when I call her and sits on command…but that’s another story.

 

Moroccan Kryptonite

Yep, I went to Morocco…in a very hot August…alone with another woman…with my regular wardrobe… no real itinerary or guide…and NO CLUE. I should have known what was in store when the two (apparently local) young men on the last leg of our flight in a small regional jet spent almost 40 minutes snickering at us. Maybe I really should have figured it out by the time we walked to dinner in the small town of Agadir on our first night – a group of men walked by us and the oldest of them stopped, pushed my shoulder so hard I almost fell, and yelled, “You are BEAUTIFUUUUUL!” while he pointed at me.

Now, I’m not homely by any stretch, but my companion for that trip is truly beautiful in a petite Nicole Kidman sort of way, and is about 12 years younger than I am. Men always pay her tons of attention, but in this setting, I seemed to be the focus. I’m thinking, uh, hello…fluffy middle-aged woman here! What, is that guy blind?

The next few days were not much different. Obviously, two very pale women stand out in a country of mostly dark skinned people. Everywhere we went my big blonde hair was like a L’Oreal beacon, drawing in men who yelled at us, asking if we spoke French, German, English…ohhhhhh…you are AMERICAN! (We were told later that American women are known for being ‘easy’…who knew?) Once the gawkers figured out our nationality, it was game on. We learned quickly to not make eye contact and just keep walking…mouthing ‘oh my god’ to one another. I think it was on that day that my friend dubbed me ‘Arab Kryptonite’. I tried to wield my power carefully, but it seemed to be pretty potent stuff.

Somewhere in my trip planning I had picked up a sundress…well, it was more of a mumu, in truth.  When I look at the pictures from the trip, this hideous smocky, tenty thing is probably the most unattractive outfit I’ve ever worn. I figured, damn, this oughta protect me, it’s more like a burka than anything else I own, so I wore it for a long day of sightseeing. NOPE. Not only did it not seem to shield the innocent locals from my curvy blonde ‘American bad girl’ aura, it may have actually added fuel to the already radioactive fire. They couldn’t help themselves, I was told. “Your beauty is too great!” said a small Berber man before he tried to get wayyyyy too close. It certainly wasn’t effective with the old man waiting by the roadside with camels for tourists to pose on. We only rode for about 20 yards, turned, and as I was wondering why he just handed me the rope lead for my camel, he slapped my camel’s butt to make it gallop! Now, my friend’s ride just plodded along, but there I was, boobs and everything else bouncing all over the place, eliciting a round of cheers from the other camel guys who were hanging around in the shade of a nearby palm tree. After the camel finally stopped, the guide then managed to accidentally lift up my tent-like skirt (in the direction of the peanut gallery, of course) as he helped me dismount.

Needless to say, I didn’t even bother to wear the mumu on the day we saw the famed ‘goats in trees’. It wouldn’t have stopped the thin middle-aged man in traditional Berber robes and orange Crocs who posed with us and his goats…his hand grabbing my ass as the picture was snapped. My only consolation was that he also grabbed my friend’s butt, so maybe my powers were fading? Oh, and in case you’re wondering about this much written about wonder of Morocco: Yes, there were goats in these argon trees.  Do they climb the trees….not so sure about that!

Goats in Trees

Nope. In Essaouria, a beautiful coastal town, we swam among children and burka-clad women, their water logged drapes billowing out around them. My own suit was a one-piece black one that I dubbed my ‘mom bathing suit’. With my hair piled on my head and crowned with sunglasses, my eyes ringed by smudged (ooops, shoulda taken it off first ) mascara, not to mention my allover uber whiteness…well, it must have made quite the picture. We waded out to shoulder depth in the calm waters. Suddenly we started feeling that we were being watched. Then touched! Several men had started diving from yards away, swimming past us, grabbing at our legs and I actually felt a hand on my ASS. We dog-paddled away from them, later saying that we “swam for our lives!” after evoking the “dun dun….dun dun” from Jaws.

A few minutes later, my friend said, “Um, Tammy…you seem to have a fan club.” I glanced around and realized that a ring of six or seven boys ranging in age from maybe 8 to 13 was forming around me, closing in by the second. I can only imagine the panicked look on my face, when suddenly I felt a hand on my…well I think Grandmama would call it my ‘lady parts’. Seconds later the brown face of a boy of maybe 9 popped up right next to me, laughing hysterically! My reflexes kicked in and I pushed him…hard. I just remember my friend grabbing my hand and pulling me toward shore…I think she was worried that I’d started an international incident! A sweet old woman scolded the boys and they dispersed. She spoke some English and told us that she blamed the video games, but we knew that osmosis was a much stronger teacher.

As we moved farther north in the country, my appeal thankfully cooled off a little. The bigger cities of Marakesh and Casa Blanca were more sophisticated, and more women wore western clothes.  My friend was once more the focus of attention, and my blonde locks lost their power…whew!  Well, at least until we ate at a restaurant with a local who knew the employees.  He introduced us to our handsome young waiter, who within 5 minutes had offered to be my man for the trip, “…just in case you need one!”