The Coffee with Cathy Guide to Everything — Football & Artistic Friends

Creative, artistic, super-nice people. Don’t they just infuriate annoy inspire 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 Jaylene Whitehurstknows 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 nothingpainting detail. 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.

From the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

The great thing about having two writers in the house is that we freely can borrow from each other whenever one of us is too lazy to actually write for ourselves and we shamelessly appropriate each other’s experiences share. Well, it’s mainly me who does that. But what my husband, Tupelo, Miss., sports editor John Pitts, says here in his weekly column for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal is true: Our grandson occasionally lost focus on the T-ball field, it’s a delight to watch athletes who love what they do and baseball definitely is boring.

JOHN L. PITTS: Let’s keep some fun in games

No Original CaptionMy older grandson, who’s 5, got his first taste of T-ball this year.

He really likes practice – we’re talking about practice, y’all – because there’s more hitting and running and doing stuff. He’s less enamored of baseball’s quiet stretches, an attitude he may get from his grandmother, my wife. Her immortal observation, “Baseball is so boring!” will probably never be enshrined in Cooperstown.

He’s learned to adapt.

His mother reports that, sometimes when he’s playing in the outfield, he just tosses his glove aside, lays in the grass and stares at the sky.

It looks like he has the right attitude.

With high school and college practices – football and all the other fall sports, too – under way, it’s worth considering that we’re all looking in the wrong place sometimes. Maybe that big cloud that looks like a monkey is the real point, not the issue of where to throw the ball with a man on second.

We’ve gotten so cynical about sports – and let’s face it, we earned it – that we’re not sure what to make of players who seem too happy doing their thing. The pure joy of the Dodgers’ rookie Yasiel Puig presents quite a contrast to many of his mercenary rivals.

Whatever his off-court problems, it’s the outsized style of Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson that seems to provoke the most reaction.

My grandson, meanwhile, really does have his eye on the ball – so to speak.

High hopes
I hope the youngsters who’re practicing never lose sight of the fact that it’s a game. It’s hard work, yes, but for the larger purpose of playing well.

I hope coaches who’re leading them never lose sight of the fact that these are young people who may not realize it now, but are learning lessons they’ll rely on for a lifetime.

I hope the parents and fans keep some perspective – do they make that any more? – and remember that good sportsmanship isn’t just a good idea for sportsmen.

And I hope we make every deadline, but along the way I hope we’ll have fun getting there.

John L. Pitts (john.pitts@journalinc.com) is sports editor of the Daily Journal.

When Sports Editors Leave Town

This is my husband. This is my husband on vacation. I offer it as photographic proof that he actually can get away from his office occasionally and relax. Like most newspaper folks and especially like most newspaper editors and doubly especially like most newspaper sports folks, heImage is dedicated to and enthusiastic about his job. To him, following sports stories online for six hours straight isn’t “work” — it’s just what he does. And he does it well. He also is an exceptional boss. He supports and encourages the sportswriters and copy editors he works with and never asks anybody to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Like be at the newspaper 12, 15, 20 consecutive days. In a row. Now, he and I both are pretty independent people — having a commuter marriage for several years will do that to you — and I rarely invoke a wifely clause but sometimes I just have to insist we Get Away. Luckily, there’s a window of relative calm that comes after college baseball and before SEC Media Days when he’ll agree to sneak off for a week, provided he can take 1) his laptop, 2) his cell phone and 3) my laptop, tablet and smartphone for back-up. He even wandered out to the beach a couple of times. But at least being almost 400 miles from the newspaper prevented those “I think I’ll just run over to the office for a little bit” moments.

Insuring Good Dreams, One Train at a Time

Older Grandson — the former Capt. Adorable, who made me stop calling him that a couple of years ago when he turned old enough to take control and Family projectstell me firmly, “Kacky, that is NOT my name.” — is absolutely the most creative, innovative, smart and loving almost-5-years-old grandson ever in the world. And I have proof. He recently gave me this painted train engine, and it’s not so much his skillful brushwork and design expertise (you see that, too, don’t you?) that impressed me but the story he wove about his gift. I had bought it for him a few weeks before at the Crossroads Museum gift shop in Corinth, Miss., which he calls “The Train Store” because it’s full of fun stuff celebrating Corinth’s famed railroad crossing. This train actually is a bank — you buy it as a white ceramic blank and then you decorate with the included paintbrush and little plastic pots of paint. Although he’s grown out of his Thomas the Tank Engine phase and now is into Batman, Star Wars and hobbits, Older Grandson’s still likes trains. As an accomplished artist, he seemed delighted with the idea of painting one. So I bought it for him and sent it home with him and didn’t think any more about it. Until recently, when he and his mom — our Older Daughter — and baby brother were at our house. “Give Kacky the present you made for her,” his mommy whispered. He dipped his hand into his backpack, pulled out something I couldn’t quite make out and scampered into my bedroom. I followed and found him carefully placing the train on my bedside table (which also usually holds 1) a coffee cup, 2) a book, 3) my glasses, 4) my cell phone, 5) the TV remote, 6) another coffee cup and 7) another book). “Oh, wow!” I said, thinking how cute that he wanted to put the train where I’d see it every day. “I like the way you’ve made the train so colorful.” (Notice how well I follow Older Daughter’s directives on complimenting my grandchildren: I praise a specific action instead of a lavishing general and unfocused praise. Yes — I can be taught.) But he knew I wasn’t seeing his vision. “No, no, Kacky,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s not just a train. It’s a dream-changer. When you sleep, your bad dreams will go in here” — pointing at the coin slot — “and then they’ll get changed into good dreams so you won’t be scared.” His mommy was smiling. “That’s all his own idea,” she said. “He wanted you to have it.” I would have hugged him and thanked him and cried over him a little, but he’d already run off to torment play with the cats, and he’s never said anything about it since. But his dream-changer works incredibly well, and I highly recommend that you ask your favorite 4-year-old to make you one, too.

A Blue-and-Orange Graduation

You know this is a completely objective and un-biased blog — except when it comes to the Smartest and Most Adorable Grandbabies Ever in the Whole World, of course — and just because I recently went to an Auburn-themed graduation party and had a wonderful time does NOT mean I lean that way. Although it’s a proven fact that Alabama fans are THE MOST obnoxious crowds and Nick Saban is THE MOST inscrutable coach. Because here in the Heart of Dixie, you have to choose. There is no middle ground between THE MOST annoying folks in the conference and Auburn. See? In my state, even a graduation party brings out the football in us. I mainly wanted you all to see these fun and creative decorations, such as the crepe-paper streamers that honor the ailing Toomer’s Corner trees and the cute and delicious graduation mortarboards with blue and orange accents, but now I’ve worked myself into such a state that I need another cup of coffee. Anyway, congratulations to Older Daughter’s nephew-in-law on his graduation from not-Alabama. He’s a smart and talented young man who will do great things. War Eagle!

A New Olympic Sport?

You get extra points if you immediately know what this image is and what it means. Until a few weeks ago, I would have had no idea  – A new kind of container for growing tomatoes? A techno-modern jewelry holder?  An industrial-minimalist magazine organizer? Good guesses. But all wrong. The orange part depicts a basket (or “disc entrapment device”) used in playing disc golf and, since this course was in the sandy wilds of north Florida, the arrows are directing you to the next hole so that you don’t get lost and subsequently carried away/eaten by hordes of mosquitoes. Do you know anything about disc golf? I was completely clueless until I hung out with my 13-year-old nephew and his mom (my sister-in-law) and dad (my brother) during our recent family beach trip. Banish all thoughts of lazily playing Frisbee with your dog — which, by the way, is never as successful as it looks on TV — because the only thing that carefree activity has in common with competitive disc golf is you throwing something. A disc-golf family like my nephew’s travels to courses and competitions the way other families take to the road for high-level baseball or softball games. When playing a course, competitors lug around backpacks filled with a couple of dozen discs and say things such as “This mid-range one is good for a hyzer flip, or should I use an overstable disc for a low-speed right backhand fade?” Since trees are the main challenge, my nephew suggested I make my first disc-golf attempt when we reached the one hole that was in the open — although you had to throw across a 700-foot-long ravine. Luckily, my brother volunteered to climb down and retrieve my discs that barely made it … well … I’d generously say 25 feet. This is serious stuff and much, much harder than it looks. I will never smile again when the subject of disc-golf at the summer Olympics comes up.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Recently my whole family — all 15 of us — got together for a beach week on Santa Rosa Island, Florida. Pensacola Beach is one of my favorite places: The sand is beautiful and it’s the perfect vacation mix of fun-things-to-do versus nothing-to-d0-but-sit-on-the-sand-in-peace-and-quiet. My daughters and I spent many summer weeks here when they were younger, and in recent years we’ve dragged coerced brought Husband JP and Older Daughter’s Husband along, too. We loved introducing “our” spot to other folks in our family — Pensacola‘s blend of history, architecture, shopping, food, music and sports (baseball, surfing, paddleboarding, disc golf)  as well as all things Blue Angels meant everybody in our group found something intriguing to explore. Of course, our three younger members — age 4, 2 and 8 months — were content to stay at Family HQ and  chase crabs, dig sand and throw shells back in the surf (okay, our 8-month-old grandson wasn’t too impressed with the surf and really only wanted to eat the sand, but still). We did all the Pensacola things — ate at Peg Leg Pete’s Oyster Bar (where our 4-year-old grandson was slightly disappointed to find out that the pirates there were good pirates), McGuire’s Irish Pub (home of the best fried potatoes anywhere. Anywhere.) and Native Cafe (which we feel paternal towards since we ate there when it first opened and have stuck with it through slow service, lackadaisical service and no service because the food is that good); visited the Naval Air Museum; watched the Blue Angels perform practically in our backyard; shopped at Joe Patti’s Seafood; wandered through Fort Pickens and browsed up and down the happening Palafox Street and Palafox Market. But, of course, as with any family vacation, the highlights involved people more than places: Taking my mom to the World War II exhibit at the Naval Air Museum to see the full-sized recreated Pacific-theater camp similar to one her Seabee father lived in during the war; making sand cities with our 4-year-old grandson;  teaching our 2-year-old nephew how to “dibble, dibble, shot,” although since his parents are skilled and accomplished soccer players, he’s much better than me; playing disc golf with-our nephew watching my 13-year-old nephew and his dad zip through a disc-golf course; learning how to-stand-up paddle board watching our two daughters conquer the surf on stand-up paddle boards; getting drenched in the rain at the outdoors Palafox Market with Younger Daughter yet still eating soggy almond croissants baked by an actual French person; and riding around in a golf cart with my husband and the king of Santa Rosa Island — Santa Rosa Island Authority executive director Buck Lee. Good times, good times.

Why I’m a Writer, Not a Photographer

You know that we are a newspaper family. My husband is the sports editor at the Daily Journal in Tupelo, Miss., and even though I’m a former practitioner of an escapee from daily-newspaper writing, I still love it when he needs my help. He’ll say, “Sweetie, what are you doing on such-and-such a day? I really could use an extra hand,” which I’m pretty sure is not how he makes assignments to DailyJournal sportswriters. But I’ll take it. Some of the things I help him with are 10K runs, such as the annual Coca-Cola Classic Corinth 10K. Even the most organized runs — which the Coke Classic is — tend toward managed chaos at the finish line. This is especially true for sports reporters as they try to identify and interview winners whose top priority is to find shade and a shower and why-are-these-folks-following-me-and-sticking-cameras-in-my-face-when-I-really-can’t-breathe? Very tricky stuff. So when my husband covers one of these races, he hires me as his assistant. And while secretly I consider it my job to keep an eye on him as he interviews attractive young women as he runs around in the Mississippi heat and humidity, at the Coke Classic he wanted me to 1) photograph winners as they crossed the finish line and 2) keep up with where they were in the finish-line crowd so he could get quotes.  For this past Saturday’s Coke Classic I managed the second assignment perfectly and helped my husband get a good story. The first, as you can see, not so much.

Beer and Peanuts

Where to eat in Starkville, Miss., home of Mississippi State University, bulldogs and cowbells? For the best college-town experience — and some great beer and burgers — head to Mugshots Grill and Bar, in a restored brick house on a downtown historic-district corner. Husband JP and I headed here recently after a basketball game, based on several recommendations that all mentioned the good food and the iffy service. We agree on both counts. Love the decor and atmosphere — exposed brick, gorgeous woodwork, fireplaces and authentically worn floors. And then there’s the menu. You’ve got all the usual suspects, but with a twist. The fried cheese wedges are made of actual real cheese lightly breaded in maybe panko crumbs so you get more of a cheese flavor than a greasy taste. Sandwiches are on fresh-tasting sourdough buns and come with crunchy and potato-y beer-battered fries. (Why is this the first time I’ve ever eaten beer-battered fries?) Burgers come in all your favorite variations: blue cheese,  sauteed mushrooms, barbecue sauce, hickory-smoked bacon … and peanut butter. Yes, peanut butter. Stop laughing. I now will never eat a good real-meat grilled hamburger again without spreading on some rich and creamy peanut butter and maybe some sweet berry-filled jam.  Also, plenty of decent draft choices. Was all this worth waiting more than an hour for and listening to two — TWO! — stories of kitchen woes from our waitress to explain our missing food. Since the end result was beer-battered french fries and a peanut-buttered hamburger, the answer is “yes.”

Start Your Engines and Eat Some Cake — Happy Daytona 500 Day!

You know that when Wal-Mart makes cakes in its honor, you’ve got a holiday on your hands. Today is the day for  “The Great American Race” — NASCAR‘s Daytona 500 (which for some strange reason I always thought was in Ohio). I have to go on record here: I know absolutely nothing about racing and never ever watch it on TV or in person. But to be honest, that’s probably because I secretly like the thrill of watching high-speed collisions and just don’t have the guts to admit it.