I know, I know. An all-SEC men’s basketball final would not be good for the sport, but I still fantasize about the joys of a Florida v. Kentucky battle. Sadly, it’s not to be. This year, at least. So now the question is can Kentucky defend SEC’s honor? We’ll see …
In the meantime, here are some things people have said to me or I’ve (over)heard that made me laugh — sometimes embarrassingly loud and obnoxiously. What can I say? I like a good laugh.
Our newly 6- and 2 1/2-year-old grandsons came to stay with us for a few days last week. Older Daughter is expecting So-Far-Unidentified Grandbaby no. 3. At one point Younger Grandson and I were talking about family. “What do you think Mommy’s doing right now?” I asked. “Mommy tired. Mommy lay down,” he said. That pretty much covers it.
One of the things Older Grandson did while at our house was set up an obstacle course for his brother using my workout gear (cardio steps, yoga blocks, hand weights and stretch bands). He then asked for paper and markers. “Are you going to draw medals for him?” I asked, admiring his creativity. “No, Kacky,” he sighed in the way that means “Dear old Kacky — let me explain to you how this new-fangled world works” and looked at me patiently. “I’m going to download his medals from medals.com.” Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?
Even Younger Grandson knows his way around mobile devices. We were staring intently at my iPad, waiting on a new game. He looked up at me and nodded wisely. “Loading,” he said.
On to some adult humor. Not “adult” in that way — “adult” in the “I-did-something-so-silly-that-my-husband-fussed-at-me-and-I-couldn’t-even-tell-my-mom” way. And, strangely enough, by “I” this time I DO NOT mean “me.” Anyway, this past weekend I was a hostess for our town’s home and garden tour. My assignment was in the house of a young couple who had just renovated their first home. The husband, who shall remain anonymous for reasons to become clear, owns one of our favorite restaurants in town. Between my tour speech (“The master bedroom previously was a den. The bathroom and walk-in closet were added in 2010.”), I of course spent LOTS of time chatting in the kitchen. One conversation turned to gardening, and the wife talked about her commitment to avoiding pesticides and herbicides in their yard. “In fact, last year I ordered ladybugs from amazon.com because I’d read they eat aphids,” she said. We older women, including her mother, sort of glanced at each other, thinking — I’m sure — the same thing: “You actually ordered bugs for your garden? Through the mail?” Maybe one of us even said this aloud because she grimaced and said, “I know. I know. And (insert husband’s name here) even got upset with me because I had them sent to the restaurant. I didn’t think that one through.” Her mother couldn’t believe it was the first time she’d heard this story and the rest of us were laughing so hard I’m sure we scared some of the tour-goers away. And you know I’ve never felt the same about ladybugs since the Great Infestation of ’92, when I vacuumed them off of our curtains by the hundreds every day for two weeks. Stupid ladybugs. You’d better fly away home.
Having an identity crisis doesn’t seem to be in style anymore. You don’t hear much about it. We don’t pull it out as an excuse — “Oh, I’m sorry I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning yesterday. I’m having an identity crisis.” — like we used to. And that’s a shame. It sure was a handy shortcut for “I’m just not feeling your unreasonable demands right now because I’m questioning the whole meaningless existence of life so just back off. Also, my espresso machine broke.” I guess “identity crisis” has been replaced with “identity theft,” which not only is a frustrating and unwelcome tangle of legal problems but leads to further existential wanderings that require more than a perfect macchiato to fix. Which you can’t buy because some criminal jerk has stolen your identity and rendered your spending capabilities useless. On the other hand, sometimes people simply don’t get your name right. I’ve dealt with this for years. My name is one of those that’s easily mis-written: “Kathy” and “Woods” are what I usually get. I’m used to that. I don’t take it personally. And even when folks call me by my former last name — that of my ex-husband’s — I can handle it. (Although my now-husband vehemently objects to people ascribing that name to him.) Even when people call me “Mrs. Pitts,” giving me my husband’s last name which I never changed to, I’m cool. But when I get letters to all three versions of me — or, because I personally am so important to this company, “Current Resident” — it sort of makes you stop and think. And I have no idea who “Cassie Woods” is, although she sounds like someone who is small and elvish and has long curly hair and knows the difference between a pansy and a peony. That person is not me, but the bakery guy who took my phone order for pick-up apparently thought it was. Nice try, bakery guy. Actually, I think he’s on to something: “Hello, XYZ Bakery? I’ll take a half-pound of wild-yeast sourdough, sliced; two almond croissants and a new name, please. I can pick up in an hour.” It’s a whole new business model.
Here is proof that mirrors lie. Big time. This is me (bottom left-hand side) at a recent morning meeting of the Corinth, Miss., tourism board at the Crossroads Museum. Barely an hour before this photo, I had gotten ready and curled my hair carefully, spending my normal 20 minutes or so on maneuvering the curling wand and applying all sorts of Guaranteed Moisturizer Anti-Aging Shiny Hair things. I’m not a natural hair person but I’ve been practicing and I sincerely believed that my mirror at home approved of this morning’s effort. I could hear it saying, “Girl, you are an awesomely talented curler.” I could see it reflecting luscious and smooth and soft Sofia-Vergara-style waves. I could head out of the house with Hair Confidence because my mirror said so. But … no. (Cue sound of brakes screeching.) So obviously my mirror has launched a guerrilla-attack campaign and Cannot Be Trusted anymore. Because what I see in this photo is not Sofia Vergara but rather did-this-woman-even-brush-her-hair-today? Sad. So sad. And terribly inconvenient. How much to pry a bathroom mirror off of a wall and stage a redo?
I have a mad, mad girl-crush on Elementary’s Joan Watson. Well, more specifically, I have a mad girl-crush on Joan Watson’s closet. I want every single thing in it. Joan herself? Meh. I mean, she is fearless and compassionate and smart and can hold her on against her arrogant-yet-vulnerable Sherlock. But would she and I be friends? Not sure. She hardly ever smiles. I’m afraid she’d find me frivolous. (She probably never devotes a whole evening to catching up with The Bachelor. With accompanying wine and chocolate-chip cookie dough.) And do you think she’s been a bit cranky lately? As their friendship deepens, seems as if she and Sherlock pick at each other and are impatient with each more than they used to be. Although that’s probably just my Southerness politely raising a hand and saying nicely, “You know, y’all could say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ every once in a while. Wouldn’t hurt you.” (Also, does anybody ever clean 221b Baker Street? Their kitchen reminds me of the one in an almost-century-old house that friends and I rented in college: charmingly vintage teetering on big ol’ mess.) But back to Joan’s closet. I covet it. I want EVERYTHING Joan Watson wears. I fervently follow the blogs, Tumblr posts and Polyvore and Pinterest sets that follow her. Every week, I ponder her fashion choices: How does she make a red window-pane-tablecloth ruffly tiered dress paired with a big yellow handbag look so stylish? Is a black leather snakey-looking dress what all New Yorkers wear when chopping onions? And, most importantly, could I possible sneak the purchase of her $600 black ankle boots past my husband? (No, I could not.) The thing is, I can’t explain exactly why I like Joan’s wardrobe. I’m not a fan of her go-to colorblocking, I studiously avoid t-shirts with words and/or animals on them (I wore more than my quota in the 1980s) and some things I’d look ridiculous in (see “red window-pane-tablecloth ruffley tiered dress” above). But there’s something about the way she puts it all together that’s appealing. She’s strong, no-fuss, modern and confident — and her clothes say that. I want my clothes to say that, too. Unfortunately, my clothes usually say “This woman has too many cats and literally cannot hold her coffee.” But I’m getting there. I not only have several gray-tweed-knit-and-black-(fake)leather tops similar to this dress Joan wore recently (thank you, T.J. Maxx winter clearance racks!) but I also have the EXACT SAME Brita filter pitcher Joan is pouring a glass of water from. Things are looking up.
Creative, artistic, super-nice people. Don’t they justinfuriateannoyinspire the heck out of you? Jaylene Whitehurst, of Corinth, Miss., is one of those folks. She is a painter, storyteller, poet and counselor. Energy and compassion are her native languages. She sees the world differently from everyone else and knows how to make you see it differently, too. And she does it all in that lilting-yet-deceptively soft Southern-woman voice that greeted the damnYankee officers who broke into the finest home in town and found the diminutive hoop-skirted lady of the house pointing Daddy’s hunting rifle at them. But if it were actually Jaylene in this situation, after she had their attention she would put the gun down and gently led the DYOs in a heartfelt discussion about why they felt it necessary to break into her house and steal her food and wouldn’t they rather just go back to their homes in Ohio or wherever and live peacefully? And they would say “yes, ma’am” and be out the door and on their horses and headed back north with no strong grasp on what had just happened to them. That is Southern women. Luckily for us, Jaylene lives in the 21st century and can spend her time painting instead of Protecting Her House Against Marauding DYOs. An exhibit of her endlessly fascinating work is at the Crossroads Museum, in Corinth, and on Saturday she invited friends to meet her there for a gallery talk. I know nothing about art but I’m constantly amazed at how artists can create something out of nothing. Jaylene uses texture and collages (that’s what you call layering things on top of other things, right?) to tell her stories. I especially liked this piece, where she used buttons, doilies and clothing patterns from her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother along with flowers from a poster she’d designed a few years ago. This work is more than a family tribute, though. It explores our fascination with circles — a fascination that connects people throughout time and all over the world. That’s the power of art, I think: gently nudging you to think about mandalas, crop circles, rose windows and Jung while looking at vintage buttons and old crocheted doilies. And footballs. Because after the gallery talk, the group ate lunch at a downtown Thai restaurant but I had to go help Vanderbilt win its bowl game. That makes five of seven SEC bowl wins, with optimistically six of eight after tonight. We shall not speak of the Recent Unpleasantness.
You know what I mean by “gift-giving envy,” right? It’s that forehead-slapping moment when you unwrap The Perfect Gift Picked Out Just For You and while you’re speechless at the insane appropriateness of it all (how did she know I’d looked at that scarf just yesterday???) you’re also inwardly wondering WHY CAN’T I EVER DO THAT and secretly dreading when it’s the giftor’s turn to unwrap your Wintry Forest-scented candle, limited edition. Or maybe this is just me. Because I have the extreme and completely undeserved good fortune to be surrounded by folks who always get it right. I don’t know how they do it. But there are clues: “I pay attention,” our community-theatre intern shrugged when I asked how she knew I needed the travel mug and Starbucks Via she gave me. “I loved it so I knew you would, too,” a friend said when she gave me the most adorable necklace ever. “I remembered that you really liked the last one,” a sister-in-law said when she gave me a local artist’s tabletop calendar. Hmmm …
And since I can’t turn around and use these to dazzle folks in 2014, here are some more unexpected and fun ideas to delight YOUR special people in upcoming gift-giving opportunities:
Did you know you could buy assorted single earrings? I didn’t, until Younger Daughter gave me this ultra-cute collection. I wear an uneven number of earrings because … well … I’ve forgotten why I decided to do that originally but I’d like to think it’s my one Rebellion Against the Status Quo. Or something. Also, when it’s Grandbaby Time, I switch to studs. One experience of having your gold hoops yanked out of your ears by an adorable yet incredibly strong young child will do that to you. I love that these have various colors and textures. And that Younger Daughter knew I’d love it.
Did you know there was such a thing as wood-roasted coffee? I never, in all of my coffee-drinking years, had heard of that. And I pretty much consider myself to be up on all things coffee. But Younger Brother knew there was a gap in my coffee knowledge, so he gave me a bag of Matt’s Wood-Roasted Organic Coffee, made in Maine. At Matt’s, organic coffee is small-batch roasted in a vintage Italian roaster fueled by wood from native and nearby forests. And it is sooo good. It’s subtle and rich and layered and smooth, just as the perfect cup of coffee should be. Order some. Now
Of course, I can drink my perfect wood-roasted coffee in the most perfect coffee mug ever. Older Daughter is one of those folks skilled at using online photo and printing sites to create ooh-and-ahh-worthy gifts everybody looks forward to. Her expertise in designing hard-cover photo scrapbooks is legendary (if only I could convince her that photos of my precious grandbabies PLAYING AND POSING ON RAILROAD TRACKS are unnecessary). And this year she outdid herself by adding a coffee mug. Just for me. It makes me smile every time I drink coffee out of it — and since Husband John Pitts probably is reading this, I won’t reveal how many times that is. But it’s enough to make me feel good all day. Even with the railroad tracks.
Our neighbors are awesomely wonderful. We look out for each other and bring in each other’s garbage cans and pick up the trash. And give good gifts. One neighbor gave us a gift card to one of our favorite downtown eating spots, which we used immediately on beer and guacamole. Another neighbor gave us a basket full of goodies, including these book ends. Book ends! I love the idea of book ends — things such as pretty stationery and statement-making key fobs that used to be staples of everyday life but now are special enough to be elevated to why-didn’t-I-think-of-that gifts. Also please note that this is John Pitts’ side of the bookshelves, used for photography purposes because his side is organized and neat while mine is overflowing and messy and so overloaded that the movable shelves actually do move — downwards — every few months or so.
So, here’s to 2014! May the gifts you give always be welcome and never donated to the Salvation Army store. (Please give money, instead. Because if the set of four white-swan plastic napkin rings terrifies you, do you really want to impose it on somebody else?)
When it comes to navigating the yearly ready-to-trip-you-up-and-drag-you-down maze that is The Holidays, forget everything you’re read advising you to “eat right, sleep well and continue your exercise routine (even a brisk walk outside will help!).” I mean, you read the same article every year and has that advice ever worked? Of course not. And why? Because a) nobody has the time to be all healthy and pro-active, b) nobody has the energy to fix a salad when there are eight dozen Candy Cane White Chocolate Mini Cheesecakes to finish and c) anyway ARE YOU *** KIDDING ME? Look, all of the holiday stress is in your mind. You cannot change the chaos. You cannot change the tightly packed schedules that have you in 14 different spots in a mere 24-hour period. You cannot change the last-minute panic, the all-night wrapping marathons, the tree disasters. Those things are going to happen. Over and over again. So how to deal? Instead of fighting it and complaining and moaning, change your strategy: Instead of letting the holidays be in control of your emotional welfare, woman up and take control yourself. After all, the holidays are fun. Remember fun? For most of us, that’s what this mid-winter break is supposed to be. It’s when we impose expectations and standards and must-do’s and must-haves on our celebrations that we start to feel cranky. So relax. And enjoy. I don’t know about you, but this is about the only time of year people leave presents at our front door, everything smells good, sparkles and sequins are approved daytime wear and you can eat Bourbon Balls with impunity. What’s not to like? And just in case you need some actual helpful advice:
Never ever use the word “tacky” in conjunction with Christmas sweaters. For those of us in our 50s who were around for the original Christmas Sweater Boom, it’s much too soon to relegate this trend to the “tacky” category. We probably still have a few stashed away in the back of our closets. You can make fun of our mom jeans, our rhinestoned sweatshirts and our Madonna hair, but step away from the Christmas sweaters.
Besides, as soon as you post a photo of your winning entry in the office Tacky Christmas Sweater contest, your best client/customer/patron will walk in with the same sweater on. You have been warned.
Whether hours spent with a cozy fireplace and comfy blanket figure large in your holiday plans or you’re going to be grateful for a few squeezed-in minutes of free time, celebrate the season by adding wintry books to your to-read list. Consider “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” by Peter Hoeg; Stieg Larsson‘s “The Girl Who …” books and any of the Inspector Wallender novels, by Henning Mankell. These Nordic mystery writers know how to create tight and compelling stories amid snow, ice and freezing temperatures — and when they’re not solving crimes, our detectives are pouring coffee and eating sandwiches. Doesn’t get much better.
In your holiday travels — even if it’s only to the neighbor’s house for a cookie swap — you may be faced with the Problem of Bad Coffee. It happens, even with people who listen to public radio and still have a Dennis Kucinich sticker on their Prius. Don’t compromise — you don’t have to drink Bad Coffee just because it’s the season of good tidings and joy. There is a solution. Eschew — politely, of course — the see-through beverage in the Mr. Coffee carafe. Then discretely remove the flask from your purse that’s full of your best cold brew, pour into one of your host’s coffee cups and proceed with add-in’s as you see fit. If you’re staying with someone (cough-cough my mother cough-cough) who is not a coffee drinker, then arrive prepared. A personal French press-tumbler is a good choice if you’re the only coffee fan, but consider bringing a more group-friendly method if others will be jealous.