Things that really annoy me & I probably should let them go but maybe I don’t want to, so there

First, let’s be clear: I do try to practice gratitude. Every day I’m grateful for having a house & a job & too much food & a spouse who loves me even when I do stupid stuff. I say “thank you” to the jeans that don’t fit anymore before I kick them out of my closet (as instructed by the Queen of Tidying Up). I appreciate little kindnesses from random strangers. I stop to smell the roses–as long as there aren’t, you know, bees & thorns & snakes & wasps hanging around & I don’t have to walk through mud or anything.

You do those things, too, I bet–practice gratitude. But, let’s be honest. Down deep, in the inner reaches of our soul where nobody knows we can eat an entire bag of Cheetos by ourselves, we count our pet peeves rather than our blessings. I don’t know why we’re reluctant to ignore those tiny annoyances that rile us up. It’s probably an ancient evolutionary thing: heavy sighs, eye rolls & inward groans could be ways our bodies keep us sharp & always on the lookout for the next Tyrannosaurus attack. Or whatever.

So here’s my (partial & always evolving) list of Things That Annoy the **** Out of Me. Besides, of course, puppy-kickers, anything & everyone related to anybody named Kardashian and everything about the White House since Jan. 20, 2017.

  • Students who ask me questions that are answered on the syllabus. I’m an adjunct journalism instructor at a local university & for some reason I am especially annoyed when students ask me things that are RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF THEM. “When is the exam?”, “What are we doing Wednesday?” and “How do I submit my story?” are all in 12 point Times New Roman RIGHT THERE ON THE SYLLABUS. At the beginning of every semester, I tell them: “DO NOT ASK ME QUESTIONS THAT ARE ANSWERED ON THE SYLLABUS. I will not be happy if you do that.” Yet every semester they do it. All. The. Time. So, also: Students who don’t listen when I tell them things.
  • People waiting at a checkout register who immediately start knocking other people over to be first when a new lane opens. I mean, bless their hearts, where are they even going & is it worth the ill will they’re piling up, karma-wise? Look, when you’re hunting for the shortest checkout, it’s all go: stalking backed-up lines, calculating ratio of cart contents to cashier speed & figuring out how many people will need tutorials on Using A Card Reader. Everybody has an equal chance to observe, quantify the data & make a choice. At this crucial selection phase, self-preservation is key. May the odds be in your favor. But once you’ve made your choice & committed to your preferred lane, you are locked in, baby. No do-overs. No take-backs. You are no longer a solitary shopper focused on your own needs. Once in line, you are part of a community. Part of a linked chain that depends on everybody being patient & respectful of The Process. You’re in line? You’ll eventually check out. Unless a cashier quietly & politely offers you a new lane, hold steady. Dashing off willy-nilly to chase the rumor of a new register opening up just invites chaos. And eye rolls. Be one with your line.
  • Lima beans will always make my worst-things-ever-in-the-whole-world lists. Lima beans are a blot on humanity. What are lima beans, anyway? Do we even know? Have you ever seen a lima-bean farm? No. No, you haven’t. Then where do they come from? All I know is that they are disgusting little pods of watery green mushiness. That is a proven (by me) fact.

So there you have it–a partial list of things that really annoy me. And I didn’t even get to co-workers who steal the parking spot you’ve been eyeing for the past eight minutes and anti-wrinkle lotions that do not get rid of wrinkles so WHY DID YOU GET MY HOPES UP & MAKE ME SPEND $150??? Stay tuned …

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Our tree is still up so I’m still talking Christmas

It’s the kind of spousal stalemate when neither one of us is deeply committed enough to Take Action Now.

“Whenever you’re ready,” my husband says. “I’ll take the Christmas tree down after you’ve taken the balls off.” (Pausing here for “balls” joke–c’mon, you know you’re thinking it.)

But I know he loves that tree–an authentic 1950s tinsel one I found on eBay, complete with original individual branch wraps–so I don’t want to appear concerned that it’s up way past the point of reasonable explanation.

“Oh, I’m fine,” I say. “No hurry. Doesn’t bother me a bit.”

So that’s why we still have a Christmas tree up. But that’s a good excuse to brag on the awesome  presents my daughters gave me last month. I’m not sure where they learned such successfully creative gift-giving since I’m more of the put-it-on-your-Amazon-list-and-if-it’s-Prime-I’ll-get-it-for-you type, but I’m tickled to be the recipient of their much better approach. Plus, these are great ideas in case you need some gift-giving inspiration.img_0386(1)

  • Family photo session. Older Daughter did this for me & the grandboys once before (“You’re always taking pictures of them but you don’t  have any with you & them,” she said.), and it’s time to update. The first one was for Mother’s Day, and this time, for Christmas, she made a point of including Grandpa for a true family portrait. Even better, she booked with our favorite local photographer. When both the experience of having photos taken AND the resulting photos themselves are priceless, you know you’ve got a winner. Hijinks will definitely ensue.

 

  • img_0443(edited)Woman Power! Younger Daughter tapped into our mutual love for all things Woman with these two finds: a necklace version of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent collar & illustrator Lydia Ortiz‘ Little Feminist Playing Cards. I’ve pretty much felt like dissenting every single day for the past two years, so RBG & I are solid. And–shout-out to public education AND book-reading parents–Oldest Grandson, who’s in the fifth grade, accurately identified Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo & others. In fact, he did better than I did. Which is exactly as it should be.

 

  • img_0444(2)Warmth. You know that eureka moment when somebody gifts you something you had no idea even existed but as soon as you see it, you think “well, of course”? That’s how I felt when I opened Younger Daughter’s USB-heated gloves. If you’re like me & value warm & toasty fingers right up there with good hot coffee, get these immediately. Even if you don’t like coffee. They’re for computer work but I love these so much I’m getting an extra pair for the car. Take that, very-slow-to-warm-up car heater.

Daughters weren’t the only ones who excelled in their gift-giving this past holiday.

  • img_0384(1)My husband & I somehow lucked up with the best neighbors ever in the whole world. The. Best. Ever. We don’t deserve them, but there you are. Who else remembers & indulges my possibly obsessive love for all things pumpkin spice? There aren’t many, I can tell you. This collection of wintry coziness makes for the ultimate in comfort: Warming mug of coffee with a splash of Bailey’s plus a slice of fresh homemade bread with yummy pumpkin butter. Turn on the fireplace & endless episodes of “The Great British Baking Show” and I’m all set. See you in April.

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  • This was the year of Advent calendars. Thanks to ALDI, I introduced my people to the concept of opening a little door every day in December to find a little surprise–wine, chocolate, Hot Wheels, American Girl cuteness, etc. My middle brother & sister-in-law were so entranced with the cheese calendar we gave them at Thanksgiving that they one-upped us with a Jim Beam version for Christmas. Twelve little airplane-size bottles were are perfect for sampling & sipping.

Family, friends, woman-power, warm fingers and good food & drink. Here’s to 2019!

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P.S. Remember that nobody pays me or gives me anything or helps me in any way in exchange for a mention in “Coffee with Cathy.” Whatever you read here is from me alone, for no other reason than it’s something I like or saw or heard or feel or want to talk about. Of course, if Cadillac wants to gift me my dream car–an Escalade SUV–I’m open to negotiations, but other than that, I can’t be bought.

 

‘Sharp Objects’ finale–do you know who did it?

I hope you also are obsessed with the HBO series “Sharp Objects” because I HAVE TO TALK about it right now, before the final episode airs Sunday night & everybody who Are you addicted to the HBO series "Sharp Objects" & cannot wait for the finale? Join me as we discuss suspects & theories & why David Tennant should never again play an American.read the book will smile smugly on Monday morning & shrug & say, condescendingly, “I can’t believe you didn’t figure it out.”

Because I haven’t.

And it’s possible that reading the book wouldn’t have helped, because: “Gracepoint.” I know that “Gracepoint” & its superior older sister “Broadchurch” weren’t born from books, but the whole “Gracepoint” debacle highlights the folly of thinking you know how somethingAre you addicted to the HBO series "Sharp Objects" & cannot wait for the finale? Join me as we discuss suspects & theories & why David Tennant should never again play an American. ends because of the way the original version ended. (“Gracepoint” also taught us that David Tennant cannot do American.  A minor quibble.) But I do have “Sharp Objects” waiting in my Kindle app & I’m diving in at 9:01 p.m. Central.

So, may we discuss? Please? Thank you. Here are my random “Sharp Objects” thoughts:

  • First, does anybody else think “Sharper Image” when you first think “Sharp Objects?” Nope? Just me?
  • If Patricia Clarkson & Amy Adams don’t receive multiple award nominations for their performances, there is no justice in the world.
  • So, whodunit? The Interwebs is full of theories & guesses about the killer(s?): Adora, Allen, Amma, John Keene & even Camille. But my pick is the sheriff’s wife–the character with the least screen time, the fewest lines & the most innocuous actions. She obviously is the killer because she’s the most un-obvious. I realize that this is a totally ridiculous an unpopular theory that nobody else takes seriously. However, again, I refer to the teachings of “Broadchurch”/”Gracepointe.” What did we learn from those shows? We learned that it’s always the most minor character, the most generically fade-into-the-background helpful person whose main lines seem to be “Sure, I can help you that.” That’s the person to watch out for. In both intensely gloomy Gothic mysteries & the office football pool. You’re welcome.
  • And, finally, what is up with Missouri being all Southern? Look at any map of the U.S. and it’s clear that Missouri trends more mid than south. Also: St. Louis. I mean, Missouri is a nice place & has nice people but it is not in the South. (Let us not speak of Missouri’s unfortunate inclusion in the SEC, bless their hearts.) If “Sharp Objects” wants to be Southern Gothic, it should live in Louisiana. Or perhaps southern Mississippi or L.A. (“Lower Alabama”). Just sayin’.

So, there are my “Sharp Objects” ramblings, with a little David Tennant thrown in. Will you be in front of your TV screen Sunday night, ready for some answers? Or have you read the book & you THINK you know? Who tops your suspect list? Maybe we need a butler.

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How much red, white & blue is too much?

Every time a holiday rolls around, I struggle with the same question, fashion-wise: To embrace celebratory colors with fun & festive exuberance or make a grownup move toward subtlety & sophistication?

Yeah, subtlety & sophistication never win in my closet.

I blame the 1980s. And the ’90s. All of that economic growth & McMansion building & IMG_8114 (Edited)hey-have-you-heard-about-this-thing-called-the-internet led to a optimistic feel-good-ism. Which, for some reason, led to a proliferation of sweatshirts decorated with teddy bears & ribbons & puffy plastic paint. And since the competitive get-ahead 1980s and ’90s was my prime daughter-raising period, I was fully committed to whatever my-young-mom-friends were doing so that I could do it better to creating special memories for my children. This was the era of the Ugly Christmas Sweater, although we didn’t know they were ugly & we bought a new one every year because new ones were at Proffitt’s & Parisian & Castner-Knott every year. But our true love was seasonal sweatshirts. We were fully committed to marking each holiday with the appropriate colored sweatshirts IMG_8113decorated with the appropriate colored … well … decorations. I don’t know how else to describe this sweatshirt frenzy that overtook us. We bought books. We stocked up on hot-glue sticks & glitter. We debated 100 percent cotton over a nylon-cotton blend. Each approaching holiday was an opportunity to showcase our creativity, our access to a Michaels and our deep & abiding dedication to our children. After all, nothing says “I love you, sweetie pie. Now stop picking off those sequins I glued on at 2 this morning.” like strongly encouraging your child to wear a sweatshirt you made at the last minute for Heather M.’s (you always had to identify which Heather you were talking about because there were at least five in every class) birthday party because you’d heard that Heather R.’s mom wiped out the entire inventory of neon pink and DAMN IT, NOBODY IS GOING TO BEAT ME AT THE NEON-PINK SWEATSHIRT GAME.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the other moms actually were just being creative & I was the only one vying for first place.

So the years passed & soon my daughters moved from My Little Ponies & Care Bears to “The Tribe” & “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” & the Age of the Sweatshirts was over. And it wasn’t just my family. All across the country, glue guns gathered dust. Little bottles of puffy paint dried up. Our beloved crafting books became yard-sale staples. Sigh. But a tiny voice in my head still says, as holidays such as the upcoming Fourth of July get closer, “Maybe you should wear that T-shirt with the stars and the stripes on the pocket? What about those flag earrings? Or perhaps the red-white-and-blue bracelet stack?”

And maybe Hobby Lobby is having a sale on sweatshirts …

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What to wear when: The South by South Style guide to dressing for every occasion

South by South StyleAnd for today’s edition, we have style suggestions for what 78.7 percent of my friends are doing right now; huddling on the couch with leftover flu fever while catching up on “The Crown” & trying to remember how to put on lipstick.

Look, most of us maintain a pretty healthy balance of laziness & energy. We all Get Things Done most days & then enjoy a good lie-about (a handy term I picked up from “The Crown”). But this flu stuff tips the balance waaay toward the lazy side. And, as we do for every other South by South Style occasion, we must dress the part. But, it’s not complicated. Oh, we could make it complicated. We could devise formulas & create algorithims & calculate level of comfort based on softness of sofa multiplied by exterior temperature points divided by amount of interior warmth furnished by the last of the Christmas Scotch. But we won’t. We (and the royal first-person plural pronoun also is something I picked up from “The Crown.”) will make it easy for you. Because that’s what friends do. (They also excuse themselves to go to the restroom when the Worst Person in the World stops by your table at lunch just to aggravate the stuffing out of you chat and THEY NEVER COME BACK. But you can’t blame, them, really.)

How to choose an outfit for Lay-Around-on-the-Couch Sunday

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See, that was easy, wasn’t it? Looking chic & prepared for any occasion is a key component for living well, South by South Style-wise. Come back soon for the follow-up post titled “Help! I’ve lain on the couch for five days & it’s Monday now & I don’t know where my closet is.” We crownare here for you.

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Family birthdays, or how Older Daughter time traveled & took us with her

We all think our children are wonderful. We all believe our children are the very best ever & have extra-super talents that make them unique & special. But can your child travel forward in time–and not only propel herself a month into the future but take other people with her?

I didn’t think so.

The first thing to remember in this story is that my son-in-law’s birthday is today, Sept. 10. It always has been, for as long as I’ve known him. His Sept. 10 birthday is an indisputable fact, confirmed by both his mother & the state of Alabama. I wouldn’t argue with either one.

The second thing to remember is that we are a birthday family. When it was just my two daughters & me, we celebrated each birthday with wild abandon … desserts, balloons & presents & surprises for days. Now that the girls are all grown up (how did THAT happen?), we continue these birthday traditions (albeit somewhat muted) to the bewilderment of our menfolk, who were brought up much more sensibly and really only want maybe a simple acknowledgement & a slice of chocolate cake. This love of birthdays mean that my daughters & I start planning early (despite the recent crisis that I shall call The  Year I Let My Husband John Pitts Forget My Birthday*) to make sure everybody’s on board & there are no scheduling conflicts.

The third thing to remember is that Older Daughter, wife to our Sept. 10 son-in-law & mom to the three most adorable, funny, smart, creative & kind young men–our grandsons, ages 9, 5 and almost 3–is an organizational beast. She runs her household with precision. The exterior of her refrigerator door resembles a NASA control room. She is in charge of who is supposed to be where at what time. When she says “Soccer practice is at 6 & then PTO at 7 & I’ve got dance class at 7:30,” we all nod & agree & synchronize our watches.

So, a couple of months ago, when Older Daughter glanced at her calendar and said to me, “You know that Jason’s birthday is next Thursday,” I immediately went into birthday mode, briefly thinking “Wow, is Sept. 10 already coming up? That sure was fast,” before joining her in a discussion of cake flavors & gift cards. After all, school was starting & vacations were ending & we were recovering from the afore-mentioned Year I Let My Husband John Pitts Forget My Birthday*, so it didn’t surprise me that somehow we had rushed through August & were now into September without anybody really noticing. During the next few days, I alerted other family members (“Don’t forget that Jason’s birthday is Thursday”), shopped for presents & helped Older Daughter organize a birthday timeline.

It’s at this point in the story that I have to pause & seriously question my life choices. I mean, during all of this early-September birthday planning, I was operating in the real world. I went to work, I met friends, I read the news. I used my laptop, desktop, tablet & smart phone daily. I knew who the president was, I knew a total solar eclipse was coming, I knew that “Broadchurch 3” was wrapping up.

Apparently, though, I didn’t know that it actually was August and NOT September.  The upcoming 10th was Aug. 10. Not Sept. 10. It was as if I was in two parallel universes, one in which everybody agreed it was August & then one in which everybody believed it was September. But maybe somehow I sort of knew? When Older Daughter finally told me that somehow she had time-traveled our entire family a month into the future & that her husband’s birthday was not in two days but in fact was in 32 days, I wasn’t that surprised. It was if I’d finally cleaned off my glasses & realized that the fuzzy spot I’d been seeing was not, as I’d feared, a supernatural presence that kept hovering at my left side but in actuality a fingerprint from the almost-3-year-old grandson.

Clarity is everything.

And how did this story turn out? Well, given all of the prep work, we went ahead & celebrated Jason’s birthday on Aug. 10, resulting in only slight family confusion. (“Kacky,” said the 5-year-old, “it’s Daddy’s birthday but it’s not really because Mommy messed up.”) Older Daughter claims it was an issue of stuck-together calendar pages. I now know I’m extremely susceptible to believing things that are demonstrably untrue. And Jason gets two birthday cakes this year.

And Older Daughter once again has proven the strength & power of an organized mom. There’s nothing like it.

*  I’m still not sure how “The Year I Let My Husband John Pitts Forget My Birthday” happened. Although I usually let him know my birthday is approaching by dropping subtle hints such as “We might have to take the garbage can out to the curb early on Wednesday because THAT’S MY BIRTHDAY,” I got distracted this year. We were out of town & then stuff happened & more stuff happened & suddenly the window of reminding him ahead of time had closed & it was more a matter of damage control. To be fair, he did say that he knew my birthday was Aug. 2 & he knew that Aug. 2 was coming up & he knew that Wednesday was Aug. 2–he just didn’t realize that the Aug. 2 coming on Wednesday was, in fact, the same Aug. 2 that was my birthday. I forgave him–after flowers & chocolate & a nice dinner out.

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WTH, trendy fashion? Or why I don’t understand jeans with holes in the knees

Fashion, you are such a fickle godess of cuteness. Just when we figure you out, you start messing with us. Just when we achieve a glimmer of understanding, you pull a switcheroo. Do you think we can’t see what you’re doing? (No, really, I can’t see what you’re doing … where did I put my glasses? Give me a minute here … I just had them … )

(Thirteen-and-a-half minutes later … ) Anyway, I know that fashion is all about making us want new things so we’ll go buy the new things and somebody will make a bunch of money although probably not the people who actually MADE the new things innovation & creativity & fresh new ideas. Fashion is change. Constant change. If it wasn’t, we’d all be wearing Birkenstocks, chokers, matchy-match separates & backpacks from the ’90s.

Oh, wait …

However, there are some trends popping up this fall that I seriously question. I can almost wrap my head around denim overalls. I get why crop tops work. And who can argue against a pair of high-top Converse? But there are a few things that I just can’t. Just cannot, at all.

  • First up–and please remember that these are my personal non-preferences & if coldthey’re some of your favorite things ever in the whole world then cold shoulderwhat do I know?–are cold shoulders. I simply do not understand the cold- shoulder style. I mean, look at these women. It’s obviously cool enough for them to wear long pants & long sleeves. It’s cool enough for the model in all black to opt for a high neck & the other model to go for a sweater. A freakin’ SWEATER. This means that the temperature probably is no higher than the low 60s or upper 50s. That’s chilly, people. That’s hot-chocolate-and-a-blanket weather. Frostbite is a distinct possibility. So, given what we’ve learned, why would we want to expose our shoulders to potentially freezing temperatures? It’s right there in the name: COLD SHOULDER. Could not be any plainer. It’s as if you bought a pair of pants named “flat-butt jeans” or shoes called “extremely painful & dangerous high heels.” This is one instance where fashion is helpfully warning us before we buy. We should listen.
  • jeansSecond is jeans with holes in the knees, but not for the reasons you probably think. Yes, it is true that probably every woman over 35 contemplating a purchase like this has flashbacks to being forced to throw out her favorite childhood jeans because the knees were starting to wear through & no amount of patching could save them. And, yes, it’s also true that seeing the price tags on something that literally is precariously being held together by a few threads makes my raised-by-Depression-era-parents frugality kick in. But the main reason I do not understand jeans with holes in them is this: Look, what’s one of the main reasons for wearing pants? I mean, besides staying warm & providing a suitable background to awesome new boots? No, we all know that the top No. 1 reason for wearing pants is so you don’t have to shave your legs. With holey jeans, however, you’re wasting a perfectly good opportunity to give up shaving for one more day.  You should not have to pick up your razor to wear a pair of jeans. Just sayin’.
  • And then there’s camo. I DO understand camo. Camo is for hunting. Camo is for18301804_1398828510160567_7219919048816544789_n 20431480_1484884338221650_8982695899421444336_nawesome women who are strong & skilled & determined. Camo is for blending in when you’re trying to outfox a … well, you know. Where I live, women wear camo all the time. TO GO HUNTING. Camo isn’t fashion. It’s a tool. That being said, these camo-print soft stretchy shorts are pretty cute. And comfy-looking. They’d be great with a cozy soft black sweatshirt or maybe a black T-shirt & a long fuzzy cardigan. And speaking of cardigans, that camo cardi truly is adorable, don’t you think? Versatile, too. Maybe with a pair of distressed jeans?
  • Finally, there are these:Capture

The new fashion trend of shaping velvet ankle leggings–formerly known as “socks.”

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