Tongue Spam: Eating Everything But the Moo!

While doing research , I ran across an old black and white magazine ad for SPAM.  In the Hormel line-up was Tongue Spam. Unfortunately, I can’t find the ad again in the internet maze, but it brought back a shadowy part of my childhood.


Don’t eat My Moo!

Now I’m not really that old. The problem was, we were dirt poor. As a matter of fact, about all we had was dirt. So, I grew up living 20 years behind the rest of the world’s modern conveniences.

“Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do.”

This wasn’t even a slogan for us. It was a lifestyle. We….

  • Saved bits and doodles of soap, and then melted it to make a soap bar. (As well as making our own lye soap)
  • I thought we were strutting with the elite when we got a wringer washing machine. I was petrified that the masher would take my little fingers off.
  • We grew or raised most of our food. Not because we were hippies, health-nuts, or part of a commune. All the old folks in the family had been kicked around by the dustbowl and the depression. They believed calamity could be hiding around every corner.
  • But the most interesting was eating animal parts that none of my classmates had ever seen in a grocery store.

 Grandma loved to tell us grandchildren, “I can use every part of

From the Historic C&GS Collection Location: Stratford, Texas

the cow, but the moo.”

Up until the age of six, I thought this was cool. Fortunately, my investigative powers of sass kicked in when I was about seven, and while getting a cooking lesson on some repellent food such as headcheese or sweetbreads, I asked her:

“Whaddya do with the eyeballs, Gramma?”

“Oh, heavens. I don’t use eyeballs. Just poor people have to use the eyeballs.” ( I was thrilled to discover we’d surpassed this benchmark of poverty.)

“Whaddya do with the hooves, Gramma?”

“Give ‘em to the dogs.” (Yes, those cow hooves and knuckles strewn around the yard make wonderful lawn ornaments.)

“Will the dogs eat tongue too? Please?”



“Heavens, no, child. This is good eating.”

Then she’d throw it in the pressure cooker and steam it for thirty minutes. The weight on top of the cooker, rattled like it was building up to blast to the moon, and she was lecturing about the dangers of how it could blow like TNT in the hands of the unskilled cook.

For me, tongue is a fearful food. You can’t disguise it. No matter how much mustard you put on it. Or ketchup. It represents “hard times.”

I suppose if we had meat rationing today, I’d be pretty hungry. I’m not sure which I’m more afraid of…the tongue or the cooker. Sorry, for all the sass, Gramma, but thanks for teaching me there are times in life when you have to make do with the Moo.

Posted in Appreciation, Choices, Cooking, Enough, Hope, Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Women, Booze and the Homefront: 1943


Women are encouraged to use beer to get the best kind of friendships

“More of your women characters should drink,” a friend told me as we were discussing the World War II research I’ve done for my next book. “After all…those harried women were keeping up the homefront, raising a pack of kids and waiting for their men to return—if they made it. Surely those gals were drinking?”

Well…that stumped me. For the past 6 months I’ve done research

  • Interviewing a”Rosie the Riveter”(yes, a few are still alive).
  • Reading over 200 “Rosie” memoirs
  • Reading 5 non-fiction books on women at war and on the homefront
  • Interviews with 27 people who lived through the times.

There have been only a couple of references to”party girls” (Young women who got jobs then boozed and danced away their newly earned riches. Most of the women talked about the challenges, the confidence they gained, and how tired they were.

Maybe the boozy party girls didn’t leave diaries or documentaries to later be found by their families? Perhaps they don’t remember what they were drinking (What happens at the USO Club, stays at the USO Club.)

Is it possible that  only the sober, hard-working gals have left testimonies to the times?

Advertising archives have few clues. There are hardly any alcohol ads targeting women.  Cigarettes?…Sure, lot’s of encouragement to smoke.

Women are encouraged to use beer to manipulate hubby

“First the Schlitz. Then the Hat.!”
Women are encouraged to get their new wardrobe by plying their guy with beer.

So…Do you know?

I’m wondering…does anyone have a Granny or Aunt who remembers what women were drinking during the WWII?

And just for fun…

I included an ad from my favorite local wine campaign:
Mad House Wife Wines from the state of Washington.

Advertising toward women has changed a bit, hasn’t it?

Wine_Mad Housewife

Posted in A Laugh, Change, Humor, Life, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Septic Tanks for Dogs and Other Things I Didn’t Know I Should Be Grateful For

Maybe it’s because ol’ Fido is now guarding the golden gates.  That’s the excuse I’m using for not knowing about Doggie Septic tanks. This handy dandy Do-It-Yourself project allows you to bury a vat in a corner of your yard. Add a few chemicals like Rid-X and each time you pick up Lassie’s doo,  toss it in. There are even nice-looking lidded models to buy if all your projects tend to look like you were drunk while doing them. Why didn’t I know about this when ol’ Shep (or whatever the dog’s name was) hung around? I would’ve been thankful for the convenience, and our neighbor would’ve been  thankful I wasn’t tossing those “dog logs” over the fence anymore.

What it looks like when our planet sunbathes

Now that I know about this planetary phenomena, I breathe a prayer of thanks for earth’s Magnetic Field.  It’s the reason we’re not wearing sunblock SPF  2,537, and this place doesn’t look like a Terminator movie set. This nifty bit of creation constantly deflects the solar wind which spews from the sun like Hurricane FlashFry. Read about the little song the earth makes as it works.  And when you have a bad day, you can remind yourself to be thankful…at least the ol’ magnetic field is one thing that went right today.

Libraries. I forget to be thankful for them. But as brick and Librarymortar bookstores disappear, this is the last bastion of hard-backed word containers. And bless Mrs. Morgan, the librarian in my little hometown Carnegie Library. She was older than river rocks, and yet fought like Churchill to defeat any challenge to get a book banned.  Thanks to librarians everywhere who kept copies of the banned books: (a few are)

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1884
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley, 1965 (Grove Press)
  • The Call of the Wild, Jack London, 1903
  • A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams, 1947
  • The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane, 1895
  • Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Alfred C. Kinsey, 1948 (Thanks Mrs. Morgan!!!)
  • James and the Giant Peach, Ronald Dahl ,1961 (Frequently challenged. Most recently 1991)

I’m thankful for People who have a “Martha Stewart” gene. I don’t. So many of my good-intentioned projects go awry.  I panic and mentally think of Costco whenever I need to take a dish to an event. I am thankful there are other folks who will foo-foo up the Thanksgiving table and make food which doesn’t look like something that should be put in the Septic Tank for Dogs.

I’m glad to provide a this great public service of being a klutzy cook. For example, this isn’t a picture of my Apple Treats.  Mine turned out more horrific. Not even the crows would eat them.


So no matter what kind of failure you have on a meal, rest assured, it’ll never look worse than something I cooked up. I’ll make you feel good about your cooking.

And that’s something YOU probably didn’t know to be thankful for.
May all you November days be thankful ones.

NOTE: I only post once a month now, but drop back by this month and check my progress on National Write a Novel Month for November.(Top of Widget). I could use a few pushes and an elbow to the ribs everynow and then. I’d appreciate it.

Posted in A Laugh, Appreciation, Cooking, Hope, Humor, Literature, Smiles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

How to Survive Your Husband’s Retirement

Okay…feel free to use the subject of this post to explain my long blog absence.

AND…Through hair-pulling trial and error, I’ve eked out a few helpful tidbits for others navigating this road.

The following tips may help you muddle through your own: “Whatcha doin’ now?” phase of life. Of course, use with discretion. Your mileage may vary.

1)    Survive the  GOD-AWFUL TO-DO LIST

Everyone will tell you that a daily list helps a retiree adrift in the sea of free time to find purpose. But those cursed advice columns don’t tell you how to negotiate whose GOTTA-DO list will be used.
My list                                                                                                                  His list

I've been working on this list for about 25 years

I’ve been working on this list for about 25 years

He's been working on this list for about 30 years

He’s been working on this list for about 30 years

Solution: Always start your fix-it request with a question AND a solution you can live with.

Poor: Would you prefer to fix the kitchen table or eat over the sink for the rest or your retirement?

Better: Honey, I need to use the magazines from 1977 that are propping up the kitchen table. Would you fix the leg now?

Best: Could you fix the kitchen table leg by next week? Oh…never mind, I’ll just go to the furniture store and get a new one.

2)    Retirement and SELECTIVE HEARING

You’ve probably been dealing with this for years. Bellowed requests must be repeated several times.


But with retirement, you’re unsure if your retiree is ignoring you, or just pushing your buttons.

Solution: Tired of repeating yourself?  Use the gibberish method.

First: Speak in gibberish.

Me-TrashNow they’ll listen…just to make sure they’re not going deaf.

Now that you have his attention…deliver your message.



Yes, I know your gut is demanding that you to clean out the trappings of your early life, but BEWARE:  Your retiree might be your best shopper.

Me-Garage sale_edited-1Mr. Dallas Cowboy Fan: “Hey! I don’t want to sell that stuff.”

ME: What are you going to do with it? You haven’t used any of this in years.

Mr. Dallas Cowboy Fan: “Just put it in a box. I might want it someday.”

ME: Okay. I’ll put it away in a box.  (Which happens to be going to a local charity.)

And Two Years Later…..

Mr. Dallas Cowboy Fan (watching TV): “Hey, didn’t I have a beer stein…or did we sell it in that garage sale?”

Use Tip # 2.


And life continues to change…..

Posted in A Laugh, Change, Humor, Life, Satire | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Funerals: Know Before You Go

Three times in my life I’ve shopped  for a casket and all the accessories that come with a Me with toe tagfuneral . Each occasion was out of need, which isn’t always the best time to make well-thought out decisions.  I must’ve been more discombobulated than I thought because I didn’t journal anything about the experiences at the time.

(I did jot a few notes about  Uncle Mert getting bent out of shape because he was left out of the loop . He felt he should’ve been consulted about funeral decisions [casket, flowers, etc] now that he’d inherited the role of the oldest  person in the extended family. No. He wasn’t paying for anything. He just wanted to weigh in on everything.  Note to self: People get a bit bonky when family dynamics change.)

So I started  research for my third book.  (I don’t advertise my books here, if you want to know about them email me, and I’ll help you find my pen name. )

My rather eccentric characters are dealing with end of life and  old age shenanigans.  Unfortunately, out of all of my real-life see-ya-in-heaven-send-offs that we had for the wingdings in my family…my recollections are fuzzy on details.

So…back to the funeral home for research.Coffin Montage copy

I have to say…it’s a bit more interesting to shop for a casket, when I don’t have anyone to wear it. I thought I’d pass along a few discoveries that may help you if you’re ever funeral shopping or conversation stalls out over coffee meetings.

Your only choices aren’t  in the mortuary’s showroom.
You can order your caskets  and urns from Costco, Wal-Mart, or direct from the manufacturer.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Sometimes they even have sales and discounts.  They try to ship within 24 hours. Usually shipping fees are included in the price.  The Federal Trade Commission’s  Funeral Rule prohibits the mortuary from rejecting the shipment.

Not available at retailers, this custom-crafted coffin/coffee table by Charles Constantine is functional and elegantly styled.

Not available at retailers, this custom-crafted coffin/coffee table by Charles Constantine is functional and elegantly styled.

Can you take home delivery?  Why, yes you can.  If you’re not planning on using it for a few years, storage is up to you.

BUT WAIT!  Don’t get all excited and start spending the money you’ll save on your funeral while you’re still alive.  Costco only delivers to 37 states.  WalMart delivers to even fewer, and not all zip codes.   You may need to move to a different part of the country before you exit this earth in order to get a good deal.

I Think I’ll Just Rent

For a reduced fee, you can get a specially made Rental casket: a fancy box around a simple inner container.  Think of it like an apartment. The walls stay, but the tenants keep changing. It’s suitable for viewing. It should please even Uncle Mert (in case you didn’t get his opinion about the coffin beforehand.)

They Aren’t Just Ashes Anymore

For about $3K, ashes can be compressed into gemstones of different colors (image not included)

For about $3K, ashes can be compressed into gemstones of different colors (image not included)

I was discussing the subject of death and burials at a recent gathering and a friend confessed that her Granddad’s cremains had been in a desk drawer for the last 10 years.  They just hadn’t gotten around to scattering him yet.  Which opened the door to numerous true confessions. A lot of ashes hadn’t ended up where they were intended.


Now there can be a Man in the Moon AND a WOMAN in the moon!

Now, in the 21st Century, ashes can be put to good use besides fertilizer and mantle decor. They can be pressured into a diamond.  Added to an underwater reef.  Or they can be shot by satellite into Earth orbit, or the lunar surface, or deep space.  The next launch is June 21st…so hurry and get your ticket.  The literature says you can “help make the dream of spaceflight a reality”  (Nevermind, the dream actually ended when the person stopped dreaming and died.)

Which brings us to the last piece of interesting advice…

Ignore anyone at the mortuary  (or your Uncle Mert) who Tells You… “This is the last thing you can do for your loved one.”

I had to think about this for a moment and finally realized:

What Can I Really Do For The Deceased? Smiley

They’re gone.  They don’t know if I built a monument or if I divvied up the ashes among all family member so everyone could finally have a piece of them.  If I’m really honest, I’m doing it for me.  If I’m actually going to do something for the dead…

I Need to Do It While They’re Still Living.

That kind of puts it all in perspective, doesn’t it?  All the blogging, writing, gardening, eating, traveling….

All the little pieces—some jagged, some smooth—that make life (not death) shouldn’t be put off.

The Rev. Brian Bergin holds the fireworks shell that contains his father's (Rev. George Bergin) ashes.

The Rev. Brian Bergin holds the fireworks shell that contains his father’s (Rev. George Bergin) ashes.

So, excuse me. I’m going over to spend time with Uncle Mert.  I want to tell him about a Lutheran pastor who loved fireworks so much, he asked his son to load his cremains into one.

According to USA Today “the burst should be a trail of sparks and at the end of each comet trail, there will be a little cross-shaped burst.”


Posted in Change, Choices, Humor, Life, Worries, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 55 Comments

The Gift for Someone Who Doesn’t Need Anything

Many of the readers of Before Morning Breaks are folks who’ve tromped the by-ways and vine-littered trails of life. The souvenirs they’ve picked up along their illustrious and rock-an-a-hard-place journeys are gemstones of stories and wisdom.

So when you ask this sort of folk: “What would you like for…..(Valentines, Christmas, birthday, whatever)

They say….“Nothing. I don’t want a thing.”

I asked for this $260,000 Sport Yacht Cruiser...but Mr. Dallas Cowboy fan only laughed.

I asked for this $260,000 Sport Yacht Cruiser…but Mr. Dallas Cowboy fan only laughed.

A few really, really brave souls will tell you, “Just a bit of time with you.”

But the truth is:

There’s something we all can use.

 A laugh.

A delicious, wonderful laugh that has no spaces in it for second guesses.

You feel it instantly when a friend has blanketed you with one of these laughs. There’s nothing about it that’s rueful or spider-webbed with cynicism.

It’s a gift, given with grace and ease. A gift that confirms you as a traveling partner. You may be stumbling toward different goals, but for that precious moment, you’re both on the same road.

So, I’m suggesting when you need to gift the person who has everything:

  • listen to each other’s stories
  • trade tea, hardtimes, and good books
  • plot the overthrow of small minds
  • commiserate about the head-scratching mysteries of love, life and death.
  • And most of all….LAUGH…deep from the belly without any thought that you sound like a coyote in heat, or look like a Jello jiggler.

Let ’er rip…..laugh.

Many of you have certainly made me guffaw and snort. It’s unfortunate we can’t hear each other’s laughs over the internet. We’ve added “LOL” and Happy faces until their edges have become worn and faded—like much-used Welcome Mats.Smiley

And yet…I thank you for your comments and your blogs about your mistakes and stories of how “human” you are. Thanks for making me and so many others laugh.

I’m wondering who you like to laugh with….and why?

Posted in A Laugh, Appreciation, Change, Choices, Enough, Humor, Life, Smiles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Change: The Race Car of Marketing Techniques

Hello My Friends,

It’s been a while.

I’ve whiffled away the days: celebrating holidays, assaying my life like a prospector

My Assistants, Mr. Turkey Vulture, Mr Hip Pastry Flour, and Lambie prefer to make their own gamepieces.

My Assistants, Mr. Turkey Vulture, Mr Hip Pastry Flour, and Lambie prefer to make their own game pieces.

looking for gems, and writing the final chapters of another book. The holidays are over. The editors have the manuscript, (hooray), and I discovered I had some interesting attitudes about change…the one constant in our lives.

My bloggy staff and I were having our annual strategic planning session. We played games as we threw around ideas and wrestled with the new direction this blog should twist.

  • Plan A: Only post once a month. Use the extra time to eat, drink and rabble rouse
  • Plan B: Get new assistants
  • Plan C:  Well….we were working on Plan C when we received the news.

Hasbro Will Axe One of the Monopoly pieces

Is nothing sacred? Was Scottie dog chewing the Shoe? Was the Top hat politically incorrect?  NO!

“Why then why the change??”

BloodIs it fair that future generations will loose that sweet childhood memory of giving your brother a bloody nose while fighting over who gets the race car?

This inexplicable change has occurred for the same reason that:

  • M & Ms messed with the colors (Good-bye violet)
  • Kellogg overhauled cornflakes. (Same flake, but now they’re “Special” and a weight loss aid)
  • Pepsi brought back a 1970s retro can touting “real sugar” not corn syrup.

Change Sells sells stuff.

Sigh….If you want to help Hasbro sell more stuff, you can go to their website and vote on which game piece will be given the pink slip and collect unemployment. (I’m not giving you the link. I’m in a snarly mood about it. Go look it up yourself. [Odds are running 2:1 the wheelbarrow will be the big loser, in case you want to call your bookie.])

Then I realized: whichever icon lost the game piece war, would become extinct and ebay saleable, right? If stuff is going to change…it might as well profit me.

I dug through our closet booby-trapped with obsolete games. (Just like you’ll probably do after you finish reading this blog) I hauled out our stained, broken-box, Monopoly set that hasn’t seen action for 15 years. Only three of the original five game pieces remain. I’m pretty sure the button isn’t an original piece.

Turns out the thimble is a real one that I’ve been missing for 15 years.IMG_2102

The dog,  top hat, and shoe icons have survived.

And the race car?  I bet it’s hiding, forgotten in a childhood treasure box in my brother’s bottom drawer…along with sweet justice for a bloody nose.

Smiley     Some things don’t change.

Posted in A Laugh, Cats/Dogs, Change, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 48 Comments