But what if our clothes talk back???

So, let’s all agree that home-organization superstar Marie Kondo seems like a really sweet & gentle person whose Netflix show is making us reevaluate our overflowing closets & overstuffed garages and I had no idea I bought five little spice jars of paprika over the years.

She’s right, of course.

We all know that the things we accumulate should have purpose & meaning–they should EARN the right to be in our homes. They should be worthy of the space they occupy and the time & effort they require for maintenance. Things we uncover during Kondo’s tidying-up process that we didn’t know we had/never saw before/don’t even understand what they are? Outta here. Free up room for important stuff such as the entire 1972 run of “Vogue” you scored at a yard sale, the hapazardly stacked towers carefully curated collection of Starbucks cold-drink cups & the shelves of workout DVDs you’ll use as soon as you get a good pair of shoes. And some hand weights. And a yoga mat. And a …

Yes, Kondo is spot-on with most of her advice. The one thing I balk at–the one thing I have several unreasonable & probably obsessive fears minor questions about–is the talking part. You know: she wants us to talk to our possessions. To thank them for their service. To honor their role in our lives.

I have Concerns.

First, consider this from your possessions’ points-of-view. What about their feelings? Say you unearth a pair a jeans from the un-mined depths of your closet. You wore them once 10 years & 10 pounds ago and they didn’t feel right then so you folded them up & figured you’d deal with them later. Well, later is here. These jeans have been languishing for a decade–lonely, abandoned, unloved. Suddenly, they feel human touch! They see daylight!! They hear soft & appreciative voices!!! Hope is renewed!!!! But just as quickly, they find themselves back in a dark & depressing pile–a pile of fellow rejects whose souls were stirred by grace & gratitude for a brief moment before being extinguished forever. A pile headed to who-knows-where. Maybe someplace better. Maybe someplace worse. Do you want that on your conscience? Do you want to be responsible for such emotional turmoil? No. No, you don’t.

Second, what about your own peace of mind? Your own emotional stability? Say you pick up these jeans & thank them for that long-ago day of sort-of usefulness but then you start thinking: “You know, these jeans were expensive when I bought them. I gave up a month of Toasted White Chocolate Frappuccinos for them. Maybe I could sell them? But today this brand is three times what I paid. I could never replace them. Maybe low-rise animal-print double-distressed cropped light-wash boyfriend jeans will come back in style soon. Styles come back, you know. Maybe I should hang on to them & they’ll be worth a lot more. Maybe somebody collects them. Or a museum might want them. Maybe I should give up Toasted White Chocolate Frappuccinos for awhile & wear them myself.” Etc., etc., etc. Once we start this circuitous & never-ending inner dialogue, it only leads to trouble.

But, finally, my main concern is this: What happens when this inner dialogue becomes a two-way conversation? What happens when YOUR POSSESSIONS START TALKING BACK TO YOU? It may not happen & probably most certainly more-than-likely won’t but what if it did? Would Marie Kondo be at your side helping you then? (Actually, she seems so kind that she probably would. But cautiously.) Why even take the chance that your friends & family find you three days later immersed in passionate discussion with your dozens hundreds of Rae Dunn coffee mugs? Definitely not worth it. You do not want to be the asterisk in the millions of recommendations for the KonMari method.

My advice? Don’t engage. Go in fast, make snap decisions of “keep” or “toss” & then initiate rapid retreat–to Starbucks, of course, for a Toasted White Chocolate Frappuccino. And don’t forget to bring home the plastic cup. You can use it later.

cropped-cwcslant1.jpgP.S. Nobody pays me anything 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.

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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Pros & cons of burning the #$%^ out of your hand

Because I am trying to corral my natural tendency to be all emotional & whimsical & use words such as, well, “whimsical,” I decided to reduce this blog post to a simple, factual & objective list comparing the advantages & disadvantages of burning the (insert your favorite four-letter cuss word here) out of — or, more literally, in to — my hand.

First, the advantages:

  • It makes a really funny story — “See, it was morning & I really wasn’t awake yet & you know how sometimes you have to press down really hard on the plunger of your French press because it feels likes it’s stuck or something & so I pressed down really really hard but turns out it wasn’t stuck at all because almost all of the hot water splashed out & … “
  • It inspires creative descriptions from your newspaper-editor husband John Pitts — “I’m thinking maybe burnt grilled wienies? Burned marshmallows?”
  • It gets you out of doctor waiting rooms and into the coveted examining rooms very, very quickly.
  • Ditto emergency room reception.
  • You don’t have to tell people that it hurts like #$%^ because they can see for themselves that it hurts like #$%^.
  • It’s the perfect excuse for one of those lovely stay-on-the-couch-and-nap-all-day weekends.

Of course, there’s a downside to everything. Thus, the disadvantages:

  • I burned my hand and it hurts like @#$% and it looks even worse. That’s pretty much the major disadvantage here.

Actually, there are two other problems with burning my hand. First, it makes me lose my domestic-incident superiority over my husband, who recently had a nasty tussle with a sock — let me repeat: A SOCK — that ended with a pulled tendon (for him, not the sock) and surgery to pin it all back together. A French press run-in pales in comparison. But that brings me to the second disadvantage of burning my hand the way I did: the unfortunate involvement of coffee. See, I love coffee. I adore coffee. I love the making of it & the smelling of it & the drinking of it & the talking about it. I know that coffee would never, ever hurt me. Coffee is my friend, my soulmate. I can only surmise that, for that one French-press-plunging instant, there was some sort of cosmic rip in the space-time continuum that caused coffee to attack. It’s the only explanation I can come up with, although, granted, it HAS been suggested that perhaps the cause of this accident can be traced to a lack of paying attention on the part of the French-press operator, as ridiculous as that sounds. The investigation is continuing. But I have switched to pour-over in the meantime.

Welcome, 2016! Come on in and make yourself at home

Less than 12 hours into the new year and I’ve amazingly already accomplished several things on my resolutions list. This bodes well for the next 12 months, although of course there’s always room for derailment. I’ll keep you posted.

So, not that I’m bragging, but here’s what I already did in 2016:

  • Got healthy — yay for a good night’s sleep (yay, pharmaceuticals!)
  • Got organized — finally ran descaler through my Bialetti Mukka pot (twice), which then led to chipping off a year’s worth of dried gunk wiping off the stove top but I managed to ignore the urge that would’ve led to full-scale oven cleaning. No need to go that far.
  • Got good-wife points — although when I uncharacteristically asked husband John Pitts if he wanted scrambled eggs & cheese for breakfast (and by “asked husband John Pitts if he wanted scrambled eggs & cheese for breakfast,” I actually mean “asked husband John Pitts if he’d like me to make some sort of eatable meal by taking things out of the fridge and doing something to them on the stove.”), he checked my forehead in case my cold/sinus stoppage/winter crud had caused a fever.

So that’s good. But before we jump in to 2016 (I can never say “jump” during the holidays without picturing Hugh Grant in “Love Actually”), let’s reminisce about 2015. And since I’ve forgotten most of what  happened in 2015, let’s just stick to December. And since that’s also increasingly a blur, how about concentrating on Christmas? That I can do.

For example, Christmas reminds me how talented my family is. When you’ve got an artist in the family — son-law-Jason Behel, art teacher & artist extraordinaire — you get presents wrapped like this:IMG_2697
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Older Daughter matches her husband’s creativity with homemade skin-care products that, I promise you, surpass what’s available in the most luxurious spa. (Although Jennifer Timbes’ Cottage Garden in Corinth, Mississipppi, is a close second. Also: don’t tell husband JP that I even know what a luxurious spa is, please.). The best part? Older Daughter promises free refills.IMG_2704 IMG_2705

Christmas also reminds me that nobody, NOBODY, understands you like family and friends do. And, really, who cares about everybody else. Younger IMG_2703Daughter felt my pain, literally, when I’d burn my hand every freakin’ morning that I’d pour boiling water from the microwaved measuring cup into my pour-over coffee filter. I’d long wanted a Bonavita gooseneck teakettle but nobody UNDERSTOOD how vital it was until Younger Daughter stepped in and I now enjoy excruciating-steam-and-boiling-water-splatters-free mornings. But then again I can’t even drink the coffee I manage to make without spilling it. We were also delighted at the beautiful simplicity with which this miracle of technology works, as reflected in the parts diagram — Lid! Handle! Body! — and the instructions, which essentially said “Fill with water, put on stove top and pour water out when ready.” Brilliant!

Speaking of Younger Daughter, I had a been-there-done-that-moment when she shared an idea for her Ugly-Sweater-Party outfit. It was an idea I remembered from an early 1990s craft book I still have in a prominent position on a bookshelf had to dig around to find in the attic because who keeps things like that? The only reason I didn’t have this to pass on to Younger Daughter is because … well … someone who can’t handle hot water or a cup of hot coffee really shouldn’t have a hot-glue gun. Just sayin’.

And then, of course, we had our family Christmas Eve tradition of tequila shots and watching “Die Hard.” I don’t even know why that’s our tradition, but it is. So hope your holidays were merry and you have a wonderful New Year ahead of you. With abundant tequila shots, naturally.

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Happy New Year!

 

 

 

It’s not a Southern party unless you’ve got …

Here in the South, we are in the middle of that lovely season when every day week DSCN3432there’s a tea or reception or shower or some other similar gathering where you show up and bless everybody’s hearts profusely and come away with 1) a new egg salad recipe, 2) details from Person A on where she bought those adorable shoes and 3) details from Person B on what Person A did after she bought those adorable shoes and who she did it with. And there are at least two food items that MUST be present to make it an official DSCN3435Southern party. Both of those items are in this photo. Southerners were raised on
these two items; non-Southerners have never heard of them and don’t really understand them. Can you spot them in this photo? Bonus points if you can name the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, party classic that is not present in this photo but no Muscle Shoals tea/shower/reception is complete without. The flower arrangement is essential Southerness, too. Sadly, my mother did not bestow upon me the love-of-gardening gene and all I know is that this arrangement has some green leaves and pretty flowers and looks really nice? On the other hand, I can tell you every single detail about every single food item on that table. Priorities! But also possibly the reason my jeans seem to have a little trouble zipping up lately. Sigh.