Spring breezed through the kitchen today when husband John Pitts politely wondered if perhaps I might possibly scramble him some eggs to fortify him for his wintry trek to work this morning. (I actually cook — I mean turn-the-oven-on-and-cause-pots-and-pans-to-become-dirty cook — about once a week and he’s always careful to use this one opportunity thoughtfully.) He had told me a couple of days earlier that he had brought some farm-fresh eggs home from his office and, as with most cooking-related topics, I nodded and said “Oh, that’s nice” while at the same time wondering if I could sneak yet another Amazon box past him and if it was Annalise or Frank (or maybe BOTH of them???) who killed Rebecca. You know — important stuff. But this morning, with ice creaking outside and gray snowy light filtering in and SCHOOL CANCELLED YET AGAIN, I was more than happy to do the wifely thing and cook my husband some food. And I’m glad I did, because when I opened this box of real honest-to-goodness eggs from honest-to-goodness chickens who walk around on the honest-to-goodness ground as nature intended, it was as if we time-traveled to the middle of April, with sunshine and flowers and butterflies and all things spring. Thanks, nature. We needed that.
Almost exactly a month ago, as I collected final exams from college students in the journalism class I teach (adjunct) and cleared off my desk in our university-sponsored non-profit office (media coordinator), I looked forward to a lovely winter break of family, friends, festivities — and checking things off of a lengthening to-do list. There were holiday chores, of course, like making chocolate-peanut butter balls and trying to remember locations of presents I’d bought haphazardly through the year — Attic behind the wedding-dress box? Linen closet on top of the exercise step? But I knew I’d have plenty of time for those other pesky non-holiday to-do’s, too. You know, those things that pile up and you just need a few uninterrupted hours to get them done: organize your closet, completely revamp the class syllabus for spring semester, finish some work projects, start on freelance magazine assignments and tackle the pile of I’d-wear-this-if-it-were-ironed or -fixed or -altered or whatever. After all, I’d be off for weeks. WEEKS! Plenty of time. No need to hurry. Relax and enjoy. And I did. There was Christmas prep, then Christmas itself, then football (We shall not speak of the SEC West’s disastrous bowl games. Shall. Not. Speak.) and then New Year’s. And people got the flu and got sinus infections and went out of town and stopped by to visit. And there were movies and get-togethers and long gossipy phone conversations and cozy afternoons on the couch in front of the fire with a stack of library books and nice beer-and-pizza lunches with husband John Pitts and hours — apparently many, many hours — catching up on TV (“Gracepoint” did end differently from “Broadchurch!” Olivia Pope still drinks wine! Annalise Keating is smarter than everybody else. And a liar!). And now, a month later, we have arrived at the final day of winter break and I have about 12 hours to organize my closet, completely revamp the class syllabus for spring semester, finish some work projects, start on freelance magazine assignments and tackle the pile of I’d-wear-this-if-it-were-ironed or -fixed or -altered or whatever. But I’ve sure had fun. Here’s to 2015 — may we never run out of things to do. #backtowork #happynewyear
No, this is not THAT kind of post. Where is your mind, people??? It’s just that I wanted to share with you a prime example*** of the unassailable difference between men and women: shoes. You know where we’re headed, don’t you? This is my husband’s entire shoe collection, minus a beautiful pair of dress shoes he has carefully taken care of for years. His. Entire. Shoe. Collection. I can’t emphasize that enough. Because I literally will wear more pairs than this in a single day. Also, my shoes are different. From each other. I don’t need to say anything else, do I? Just ponder on that.
*** This was one of my dad’s favorite phrases back in the day, as in, “That is a prime example of what happens when you don’t pay attention,” which, it will come as no surprise, was usually directly at my middle brother because I ALWAYS listened and anything the baby brother — also known as The Favorite Child of All Time — did was just fine and dandy. In fact, I don’t think he ever was prime-exampled.
My husband, John Pitts, and I (usually) have different leave-for-work schedules. I’m gone before the mail arrives, so one of his morning chores is to go out to the mailbox and bring the mail in, which also serves as a brief escape for Smart Cat to dart out the door and chew some grass BECAUSE SHE CAN. Yesterday, as he drove to work, he called me and in a perplexed and slightly apprehensive tone, said the following: “You got one of those magazines again.” As I tried to figure out which of my preferred subscriptions (Mother Jones? Vanity Fair?) he was objecting to (in the political sense, of course, because that’s the only objection I will allow him) , he added, “You know, one of those huge fashion things. Vogue or something.” Yup, it’s that time of year again — that much-anticipated season when our old-fashioned mailboxes groan under the weight of our old-fashioned fall-fashion magazines, just like the good ol’ days. It is a true thing that no matter how much I love loading up an iPad with digital goodies, nothing beats settling in with a cup of coffee and that thick stack of glossy-paged cold-weather fantasy and thinking things like, “If only I were 30 pounds lighter and 30 years younger, I could wear that $5,000 pair of sequined pants. To the office.” Of course, if you dropped the 10-pound combined weight of the September issues of InStyle, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar on your trendily stilettoed foot, you would not be able to wear said stiletto, but that’s a risk we’re willing to take. So what’s new for fall? Plaids. Solids. Big bags. Little bags. Wide legs. Skinny legs. Circle skirts. Pencil skirts. Luckily, my favorite designer — the T.J. Maxx clearance rack — has all of these choices. And more.
It’s a gift, really — when you unpack your purchase and reach for the “Instruction” sheet (because I am a girl and that’s what we do) and you suddenly stumble into a United Nations of mis-translations and awkward English and the resulting delightful cacophony of words. This came in the fillable lamp base I picked up at our local Tuesday Morning. I especially love the courtesy of the “please” in Instruction No. 1 and the slightly forceful directive to “enjoy your lamp” in No. 5 — as if maybe if I didn’t, somebody would come over and make sure that I did. Then there’s the “put stuff inside of glass” in No. 3 — I imagine here that the author had spent hours searching for the correct term for “stuff” and then simply gave up in exhaustion and thought “Well, it’s ‘stuff,’ so let’s just say ‘stuff’.” And I only recently learned that “sea star” is another name for starfish and I think it’s a much prettier and more accurate name since they are, in fact, not fish at all. (Also they are endangered — like so many other cool ocean things.) And, of course, there’s the most elegant phrase of all: “Screw tightly the metal cap,” in Instruction No. 4. I’m going to talk like this all day today — “Get quickly out of my way, you idiot driver, you.” — and see if it helps any. Naturally, however, this “instruction” didn’t do me any good because immediately after putting stuff inside the glass and screwing tightly the metal cap and before preparing to enjoy my lamp, I disregarded the vital Instruction No. 1 and proceeded to pick up the lamp by the metal cap. Luckily, I did avoid breakage and quickly regrouped as advised. This guy sure knew what he was talking about.
Well, hello again, blogosphere! Have you missed me? I have missed you these past few
days weeks months that I’ve been too lazy too undermotivated too incredibly busy doing really important stuff to sit down and write. Which is not a good thing for a (sometimes) writer. So today is the day I get back to it. Coincidentally, today also is the day I will a) start a healthy eating plan and lose 10 pounds, b) clean out and organize the attic AND garage and c) go visit in actual person the friends I’ve been meaning to catch up with for the past few days weeks months. Or I could stay home and watch the SEC Network and reruns of Castle. Hmm … so many choices. Truthfully, I should have just gone back to bed after my unfortunate attempt to make coffee this morning before I’d had, you know, some coffee. I understand now why the first step in “How to Grind Coffee Beans in Your New Bodum Bistro Electric Burr Coffee Grinder” is “Place ground-coffee glass container securely under coffee-bean release.” The learning already is starting today. Stay tuned!
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.