Saturday shoe shopping

You know how when you have no motivation to write & would rather sit on the couch bingeing “Say Yes to the Dress” writer’s block and the advice always is to write what you know? Well, I know about shopping. And shoes. And hanging out with friends who also know about shopping and shoes. In fact, those are some of the things I do best.

Also: Warning–the following post is NSFHusbands. And by “husbands,” I mean mine. So, John Lewis Pitts, just look away. This does not concern you. (Well, actually, it probably concerns him a lot because this is a man who reaches for the duct tape instead of a credit card when his computer bag breaks. Just sayin’.)

So, a couple of friends & I were in Decatur, Alabama, recently. And because it was in the IMG_5991.JPGmiddle of the day & we knew we shouldn’t hit the bars (yet), we did the next best thing & went shoe shopping at Blue Ribbon Shoes–also known as Best Place Ever in the Whole Wide World to Buy Shoes. This was my first time, and I have to admit that I’d heard my two friends–one of whom I shall for no reason at all randomly call “Judy S.”–rave about this place so often that I was skeptical. I mean, really, how good can it be? Answer: That good. I’m talking rows & rows of cute new wear-now shoes at prices that that will make you think that you’re looking at the tag backwards. Or that you’ve lost a contact & aren’t seeing cleIMG_5993arly. Judy S. must have sensed my previous skepticism because I swear she was sort of smirking as she watched me take it all in. And I not only took it all in, but I nearly took it all home. (Disclaimer: The above photo may or may not be my purchases and may or may not be all of my purchases.) Luckily we all three were able to find correctly sized shoe happiness. There were no sneaky moves such as hiding a coveted pair of sandals in the boot section (a classic T.J. Maxx trick) or misdirecting attention (“Look, aren’t those the black Franco Sarto pumps you wanted?”) away from the only TOMS watermelon print espadrilles on the 7-7.5 table.

Now, before you go to Blue Ribbon, be aware that this is true discount shoe shopping. No one will offer you wine. There are no fancy bags for your purchases. In fact, it reminds me of the places I shopped with my two young daughters when I was a single mom without a lot of money & Older Daughter asked me one day, plaintively, “Mom, can we someday buy shoes that come with boxes?” (Bless.Heart_corazón.svg) You can ask for the boxes at Blue Ribbon, but why would you? It only slows you down. Fewer boxes means more room for the, you know, actual shoes. Just remember to remove the price stickers from the bottom of your new treasures, especially if you tend to sit with other people & swing your legs.

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The folks at Blue Ribbon are friendly & helpful & efficient & don’t mind checking in the back for that last pair of black heels. They put new merchandise out on the floor every day, said the woman at the cash register. I envision a constant stream of shoe deliveries, 24/7, based on the number of people shopping the day we were there & the promise of fresh inventory at every visit.

So pick a Saturday & grab a shopping buddy & check it out. But those Pierre Dumas Women’s Brenna-1 Two-Tone Canvas Fisherman Sandal with Decorative Ankle Strap, Sand Combo, size 8.5 you’ll see for $10 less than everywhere else? Mine. Unless there’s an extra pair in the back.

Please note that this post is not sponsored or paid for in any way. All opinions are my own & are not influenced by anybody else, except for Judy S., who said that since the brown sandals looked so good on me , maybe I should get the gray ones, too.

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High school class reunion, or why doesn’t anybody listen to John Denver anymore?

This is what 1975 looks like today. Pretty damn good, I think.

class pic         Thanks to the patience and perseverance of a few dedicated folks, the Coffee County Central High School (Manchester, Tennessee) class of ’75 gathers for an official reunion weekend every five years. Saturday night we gathered at the fanciest place in town to eat, to spill my glass of red wine all over my purse to drink, to catch up and to lose at to play charades. We had a blast — as long as we studiously ignored the fact that we all are way older now than our own parents were when we graduated. That’s a little scary. And it made me remember that the whole time we were going through school, people kept telling us that we were the future of our country and America’s success and welfare were up to us. I’ll just let that thought sit there for contemplation.

But here are some other, more cheerful thoughts:

  • BFF Debbie Stepp Ball was my date since husband John Lewis Pitt
    s
    , sports editor at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, had this little thing called THE FIRST COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKEND going on. usAs usual, Debbie Stepp and I both wore pretty much the same thing, both worried about our shoes and both could barely stay awake past 9 p.m. Because that’s how we roll. Also please ignore the senior picture on my name tag. I have no knowledge of who that person is. None at all. Nope, it’s not me. Debbie Stepp, also as usual, got tons of compliments and people said things to her such as “Oh, Debbie, you haven’t aged a bit!” People said things to me such as “Uh, hello? Were you in my Spanish class?” But it is true that she has not aged a bit and is a beautiful person inside and out and I’m just glad she still lets me hang out with her.
  • The much-anticipated charades team made up of the class Cathys/Kathys — we think there were eight of us at one time — lost because WE FOLLOWED THE RULES and didn’t talk. The Cathys/Kathys ALWAYS follow the rules. It’s what makes us who we are. Fingers pointing at you, team of Gordon Smith. Fingers pointing at you.
  • The generation that graduated in 1975 got kind of stuck, history-wise. We missed out on the Beatles, the Sixties and Elvis. In the months before
    we graduated, Watergate conspirators were convicted and the Vietnam War ended. Our male teachers were a mix of World War II veterans and young guys with bell-bottom pants and hair touching their collars. Our female teachers were a mix of ruler-slapping take-no-prisoners ladies who’d been teaching for about a hundred years and young women trying out this new idea that they could have careers AND have families at the same time. Is it any wonder we were confused?     10888636_10156002401545626_5285635509432103484_nIs it any wonder that when the photographer at the reunion told us we could do anything we wanted for a “silly” picture, we couldn’t handle it? We panicked. We froze. This picture is as silly and free as we could get. But it’s not our fault. We were raised to do what we’re told. We need rules and regulations! Parameters and limitations! It’s how we do our best work.
  • And one final thought — these folks are all fun and friendly and delightful to talk to. Why didn’t I know that 40 years ago? Why was I so insecure that I didn’t venture beyond my own circle of friends? Wish I’d embraced all the quirks and differences and strengths that made us our wonderful different selves. But maybe that’s what reunions are for … that, and getting to hear your mother tell you, as you head out the door, “You’ll knock all those boys off their feet!” (my mom) and “Don’t drink and drive!” (Debbie’s mom). So glad some things never change.

Spelling and other lessons

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, that annual competition where focused & determined youngsters prove yet again that they are way smarter than the rest of us, was held recently. For the second consecutive year, two spellers tied for first place. Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, spelled “scherenschnitte” and Vanya Shivashankar, 13, spelled “nunatak” for the win. They outlasted almost 300 opponents who got eliminated after heartbreaking misspellings.

I can’t even spell “misspellings.”

However, I do have a connection to this year’s contest — popular national contestant and Mississippi first-place champion Dev Jaiswal was one of the spellers in my disastrous first-and-only attempt at being a spelling-bee pronouncer. And before you say “Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t that bad” & “You’re being too hard on yourself,” please note that I have never ever ever been asked back. The truth is that, unlike the young spellers, I was unprepared & thought I could muddle through without much effort. To anyone else who’s asked to pronounce at a spelling bee: YOU CAN’T MUDDLE THROUGH. When the organizers gave me the words I’d have to pronounce and use in sentences a couple of weeks before the bee, I glanced through it and didn’t notice anything too intimidating. I should have looked harder. It was obvious, though, that unlike me, Dev and his co-contestants had approached the bee properly since we quickly zipped through the list — despite my increasingly stumbling pronunciations because WHERE THE HELL DID THESE WORDS COME FROM & WHY HAVEN’T I SEEN THEM BEFORE? — and had to call The Office Spelling Bee Folks for new words. After my failure was complete and avoiding the kind yet sorrowful eyes of the judges, I slipped out quietly and vowed to immediately counteract my poor performance with fried sugary doughnut goodness prepare better in the future.

Thankfully, Dev apparently wasn’t as scarred by that experience as I was. He’s overcome the disadvantage of having me pronounce his words and gone on to become a spelling-bee celebrity. CNN even called him “The inDEVatigable Jaswal” and reported that although he didn’t win, his smile and graciousness earned him a standing ovation. And autograph requests. Autograph requests!

So, to conclude, this young man now has taught me 1) to do your best and 2) to be OK with whatever your “best” is. T-H-A-N-K-S, Dev. (“Thanks:” — plural of Middle English thank, from Old English thanc thought, gratitude; meaning “kindly or grateful thoughts;” used in a sentence as “Thanks, all of you spellers, for showing us what’s really important.”

Running with the family, or “Why is there purple stuff in your ear?”

There is a way to make your family and friends think you are the coolest person ever AND reap other priceless benefits along the way.

Running.

1 oucWait! Don’t stop reading yet. Those inspiring stories about people whose idea of exercise is walking to the fridge but then they start running and they realize they love it and months later they’re competing in marathons?

Yeah, this isn’t one of those stories.

I strongly dislike running. I mean, it hurts. A lot. And makes your mascara run. I asked a running-fanatic co-worker once why she enjoyed the sport and she got a dreamy look in her eyes and smiled and said, “You know that feeling when you can’t breathe and your legs won’t work and you have to stop by the side of the road to throw up? Gosh, I love that feeling.”

Um, no, thank you.

Besides, have you been at the start line of a race? All those toned abs are intimidating.

This is a story, however, about a kind of running – the fun kind, where you get out with your family on a Saturday morning and spend some time together and get some exercise and end up feeling as if you’ve accomplished something important while still keeping your mascara intact.

2 picI’m talking about fun runs, those one-mile races with more emphasis on “fun” than “run.”

This spring, our daughters and our 7- and 3-year-old grandsons have hit the fun-run circuit. We’ve been pelted with confetti, dug colored cornstarch out of our ears and had a blast.

We none of us are runners (except the 3-year-old, who runs the whole mile without stopping or even breathing hard — I see Olympic medals in his future) and I was apprehensive about our non-athletic status before we signed up for our first race.

But I was being silly. Everybody is encouraging and enthusiastic, and the grins on the kids’ faces as they cross the finish line to cheers and ecstatic high fives are priceless. They may even have learned something about reaching goals and trying your best and helping each other.

And as a bonus, you get say this to your friends: “Sorry I can’t go shopping with you Saturday morning. That’s a race day, you know.”

The Seven Stages of Stitch Fix

All across the country, a strange fever has taken hold of thousands of women. Perhaps you’re box editedinfected yourself. You probably at least know somebody exhibiting the symptoms: obsessively browsing blogs and Pinterest boards, frequently referring to “my stylist” and uninhibitedly squealing with joy when a cardboard box sporting a blue and brown logo appears at the front door. Be careful! This fever is highly contagious. In fact, I guarantee that if you get anywhere close to it, you will succumb. But, on the other hand, you will be cute and well-dressed because, of course, I’m talking about Stitch Fix, the online fashion subscription service that’s taking over the blogosphere. Katrina Lake, 31, is the founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based company that’s causing heart palpitations and swooning in everybody from hardened business analysts to young moms who just want to wear something besides yoga pants and baby food. And women like me. (Note to husband John Pitts: There’s nothing for you to see here. Nothing at all. Just move along.) I don’t know why I like Stitch Fix so much. I clothes editedcertainly admire Lake’s entrepreneurial mix of statistical algorithms and personalized service. I’m in awe of Stitch Fix’s successful and seemingly effortless marketing strategies. I like Stitch Fix’s casually chic and trendily classic aesthetic. But mainly I just sort of uninhibitedly squeal with joy with a box of adorably cute clothes THAT I DIDN’T HAVE TO PICK OUT MYSELF shows up at my door. I can’t explain how much fun that is. Perhaps I need to get out more. In the spirit of rational thought and scientific research, however, I have identified the Seven Stages of Stitch Fix. Check to see where you are on the spectrum:

  1. You’ve filled out your style profile (mine revealed that I am not glamorous, edgy or bohemian — who knew?), loaded up your Stitch Fix Pinterest board and scheduled your Fix. You immediately begin to stalk your box’s arrival.
  2. While you wait, you check out other Stitch Fix reviews and start to obsess. Will you get that lovely Daniel Rainn heart-print top? Has somebody else scored with the Paper Moon black-and-white dress you pinned months ago? Are there any Collective Concepts Split Neck Embroidered Sweater left in your size? It’s shopping porn at its best.
  3. Finally, your Fix has shipped. You know you can click on the checkout button and view your invoice, which has descriptions of what’s headed your way. Should you peek? And if you do, should you find photos to match those descriptions? Decisions, decisions …
  4. It’s here! Your Fix arrives. You savor the moment of DSCN3108 editedopening the box and unwrapping the goodies inside because, really, when else does somebody choose things specifically for you and mail them just to you? (The answer is “not often.”)
  5. You ooh and ahh over the colors and the fabrics. Yes! You can wear that skirt to work tomorrow. You can wear that dress to the wedding in a couple of weeks. And those pair of jeans will be your go-to weekend wear. You study the styling cards. You start making outfits in your head. The possibilities are unlimited …
  6. Well, at least they are until you try your clothes on. Just like in stores, sometimes what looks good on the hanger (or in the box) doesn’t make the cut when it’s on you. Sometimes the sizing’s off. Sometimes the cut isn’t flattering. Sometimes your budget isn’t Stitch Fix-friendly. But, really, that’s beside the point. One piece or none or all five — doesn’t matter what you keep. Because you’ve had the Stitch Fix experience, and you’re ready for more.
  7. So you put your send-backs in the prepaid envelope, pop it in the mailbox, tweak your Style Profile, write a sweet and helpful note to your stylist, schedule your next Fix and immediately begin to stalk your box’s arrival.

Want to try it? Stitch Fix has not paid me to write this post, but the company does give its customers credit toward purchases when they refer new customers. So click here to sign up, and then when you’re a happy Stitch Fix customer you can get credits yourself. Brilliant!

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.

The Coffee with Cathy Guide to Everything — Holiday Management

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.
  • Best present ever? A hot-lotion dispenser. Trust me.