The Coffee with Cathy Guide to Everything — On Being a Good Grandma

I love being a grandma. And I’m pretty good at it. Look, when you are the mommy and you have kids, Captureyou’re pretty much stressed and busy and even though you know you’re supposed to slow down and enjoy, there are clothes to wash and homework to check and teachers’ presents to come up with and cookie dough and wrapping paper to buy and so on and WHO HAS TIME TO SLOW DOWN??? But when those kids grow up and give you the most wonderful and adorable grandbabies in the world and you no longer have to worry about 101 ways to make chicken casserole, you can relax and indulge in grandbaby love. Which is The. Best. Ever. But I do try to follow the rules Older Daughter sets down. First, because she is an awesome parent and I have no idea where she learned to be so wise. And, second, if I follow the rules, that means more grandbaby love for me. So I try to be as creative and low-key and green as her standards request. That’s why, one recent afternoon, we all were sitting at the kitchen bar and I noticed four random rectangles of paper — tickets or coupons or something. Eager to show how smart environmentally friendly I was and proud of my educational initiative, I quickly drew a shape on each piece for an impromptu game with 2-year-old grandson of Identify This Shape. And as the genius baby he is, he got the triangle. He got the square. He got the “E” (first letter of his name). But when I held up the fourth shape, he wrinkled his cute little adorable grandbaby forehead in concentration and then, puzzled, looked at his mom, his primary interpreter. She then literally fell on the floor laughing. “What? What?? WHAT???” I said, not sure what was happening. And in that patient tone of voice she uses with me with alarming frequency, she explained: “That doesn’t look like any circle he’s ever seen.” So, OK. I’m not a great artist. And nobody can read my handwriting. But, I ask you, isn’t that clearly a circle? Sort of, anyway? Thank you.

Christmas Parties & the Coffee with Cathy ‘How To Do Everything’ Guide

 Or, how to be happy in your new house

Susan's coffee table is gorgeously decorated for the holidays. And see those papers? We actually read our assigned books and go over discussion questions and have some lively conversations. Over wine, of course. But still.

Susan’s coffee table is gorgeously decorated for the holidays. And see those papers? We actually read our assigned books and go over discussion questions and have some lively conversations. Over wine, of course. But still.

You know that friend you have who has been through so much yet still is a rock(ette) and everybody relies on her and she is cheerful and giving and loving despite every reason not to be and you want only good things for her always? My friend like that — let’s randomly call her ‘Susan’ for no reason whatsoever — is the DEAREST AND BEST person ever and I am so lucky she lets me be her friend. She recently bought and moved into her own house and because I am a bad friend who doesn’t deserve her, I hadn’t seen the new place until this week when she hosted a Christmas party for our four-woman book club. (We are small but extremely opinionated — or maybe that’s just me. The opinionated part, I mean.) She was beaming as she welcomed us in to her warm and cozy and festive oh-so-her home. Even if I didn’t know she lived there, I would have said she should — it fits her so well. She didn’t have to do a thing to it, paint-wise, and her furniture works perfectly, with plenty of space and traffic flow for family and friends as well as her own woman-cave for relaxing. She has such good taste in decorating — simple yet elegant with a big dash of creativity is the best way to describe her style. For instance, look at her china cabinet (below).

The clear glass centerpiece reflects the candlelight and the silver and white colors add to the festive wintry atmosphere.

The clear glass centerpiece reflects the candlelight and the silver and white colors add to the festive wintry atmosphere.

highboy

Susan adds personal touches to her china cabinet with a unique display of her Gail Pittman collection.

Love, love, love the way she propped up her square Gail Pittman plates in the back to look like inlaid tiles. Clever! (And remind me to tell you about some of our Gail Pittman adventures. You wouldn’t believe what folks will do for a matching dessert plate and espresso cup. And by “folks,” I mean me.) Anyway, for Christmas Susan used silver and pale blue and glittery white to create a magical wintry evening. She fed us yummy food and fun cranberry margaritas and we opened presents and talked about the book and laughed a whole big bunch. Doesn’t get much better than that, especially when you’ve got a hostess who is so happy to share her own home with her friends. Seems like that’s the way to do Christmas parties.

Tennessee Pitts

My mother-in-law was a strong and independent woman before women were supposed to be strong and independent.

Tennessee Pitts — isn’t “Tennessee” the best name ever? — passed away last week at age 95. She was born in 1918 — a year when folks used horses to get around, electricity was an out-of-reach luxury and World War I ended as an equally devastating flu pandemic began.

And American women couldn’t vote. Or, in many states, own property, keep the money they earned or divorce their husbands. And while American law and culture began to accept and acknowledge (shamefully, only white) women as Tennessee and the 20th-century grew older, a woman who wanted her own career faced plenty of challenges.

That was my mother-in-law, who lived a remarkable life of her own choosing in a time and place when most women couldn’t. Growing up in a large family on a middle Tennessee farm as her parents and their parents did before her, she married straight out of high school. But then the story gets interesting. When Tennessee Pittsshe discovered her young husband had been unfaithful, she made three decisions: To get a divorce, to get a job so she could support herself and to become a nurse. She did all three, taking classes in sheet metal to secure a “Rosie Riveter” job building fighter jets in Nashville and enrolling in the newly formed Cadet Nurses Corps. that the U.S. government organized to fill nursing shortages. As a registered nurse, she worked almost 30 years at the Veterans Administration hospital in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where she met Roscoe Pitts. They married in 1949 and eight years later, my husband was born. After her husband died in 1984, Tennessee moved from the family farm to a condo in town and indulged in her loves of traveling, reading and baking “treats” for friends and family. She loved her son and was fiercely proud of him. Self-sufficient and practical, she was not pleased when a stroke slowed her down in 2003. And although her doctor suggested in 2007 that we plan her funeral after a kidney infection, she — as usual — stuck to her own schedule.

I didn’t know her well. My husband and I dated in college but I only met her a few times then. And he and I reconnected  a couple of years before her stroke, although a friend of hers told me this weekend that Tennessee had said she liked me and thought my (then-teenage) daughters were sweet. By the time she had to live in a nursing home, she’d forgotten I was her daughter-in-law and saw me as a nice friend who stopped by to visit. But I’ll take it. High praise from a woman who pretty much faced down a wandering husband, World War II and the health-care industry — and won.

A Family Easter

Older Daughter’s in-laws always so graciously invite husband JP and me toSpring desserts be part of their holidays. And, really, they make us feel part of the family. So we get all the love and support and good times of a big & boisterous family gathering (slightly dampened this year by the background strains of SEC‘s last Final Four hope, Florida, losing to lower-ranked Michigan). Plus, our family membership easter treemeans we get to enjoy, for example, delectable goodies such as melt-in-your-mouth fresh coconut layer cake, which I never would even consider trying to make myself because I am lazy like that don’t have enough cake pans. And I love being with folks who put up an Easter tree. So we ate and talked and hid & found eggs and learned the card game Three Thirteen, which I played much like Florida did. Luckily another piece of coconut cake made even defeat taste better.

Caves, pogo sticks and Pancake Strawberry Shortcake

Birthday partyOnly a 5-year-old boy would have the good taste to request his mom’s Perfect Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes for his birthday dinner — accented with Star Wars decor, of course. Older Daughter obligingly whipped up a batch while Younger Daughter sliced the berries and made sweetened and real whipped cream. Family and friends sat down to the feast, even husband JP, who although he’s successfully sticking to a low-carb eating plan, cheerfully made an exception for Older Grandson’s birthday party. It’s what grandparents do. And only a 5-year-old boy would request the following for his special day: A trip to a nearby state park to explore a cave, a visit to the local children’s science museum, a pogo stick, Legos (always on any list he makes) and a dinosaur model that includes bones, muscles and a pink squishy stomach and other mysterious parts. Of course, all requests were granted.

Random Thoughts from a Cluttered Mind

Recently I had a mad cleaning fit and finally — finally! — took on my home-office space. Although I think I’m a fairly organized person, the stacks of magazines and piles of papers and random notes stuck everywhere (I hope “Snd by 4:30 Tuesday” wasn’t important because I have no idea what I was supposed to “snd” or to where) said otherwise. Inspired to do better, I cleaned and filed and recycled and threw away and ended up with such a clutter-free work space that I know it will take me only a few days to mess it up again I’m feeling back in control. So why not do the same thing to my brain? We all have these unfettered half-finished thoughts and lists and ideas sort of floating around — you know, the things that keep you up at 2 a.m. because you simply CANNOT GET THEM OUT OF YOUR HEAD. If you can declutter your desk, why not declutter your mind? So here are some of my thoughts that are just lying around taking up valuable space. Who knows what I could accomplish without them in the way — finish start my novel, clean out the refrigerator, take a nap? The possibilities are endless!

  • We early-to-bed and early-to-rise folks do not like springing forward into Daylight Saving Time, with its dark mornings and its sunshiny evenings. Bleh! Of course, it does feel as if you have more time to go clothes shopping after work to get home and pull weeds, so that’s a good thing.
  • I never have to complete this sentence when talking to a fellow female about why I can’t go to the movie and sit still for two hours: “You know I had that major sinus infection for six weeks and then I finally went to the doctor and got some high-powered antibiotics that worked great, except that now …”
  • I don’t know why I cannot look away from “Celebrity Apprentice.” Has Donald Trump’s hair somehow hypnotized me? Scary stuff.
  • The baby-switching at the end of “Downton Abbey’s” final episode still bugs me. From one frame to the next, Lady Mary went from holding a “newborn” with fluffy reddish hair to one with slicked-back black hair. What does this mean? Did the producers think we wouldn’t notice? Or when season four starts and we’ve jumped ahead 10 years but nobody’s changed except for this strange child who DOESN’T LOOK LIKE ANYBODY ELSE, will somebody remember that Lady Mary blacked out for a bit after childbirth and nobody was with there with her for a few minutes and maybe SOMETHING HAPPENED???
  • I hope colored jeans are still in style this spring because I picked up several pairs last year and if everybody else is back in classic blue denim and I’m bopping around in turquoise and lime green and bright red … well, it won’t be pretty. Literally.
  • Speaking of babies — and this is a good thought I don’t want to get rid of — seems as if everybody’s having them. In the past few months,  my brother & sister-in-law had their second, a girl named Harper (love, love, love that name); several friends welcomed new grandchildren; and almost everybody I talk to is hosting or attending a baby shower. More, please.

Ah, I feel much better now. Thanks for helping with my decluttering project. Sadly, I already can feel those empty brain spaces filling up, much like my clean desk seemed instantly to sprout new stacks of staff. So come back soon for my next data download. Who knows what’s in there?

Happy New Year!

If my New Year’s resolutions were to watch football and stake out the coziest corner of the couch, then Jan. 1 was a success — although my beloved SEC took a hit as both LSU and Mississippi State LITERALLY dropped the ball(s), leaving Georgia and Vandy to represent so far. Now, since I am lazy lucky enough to work part-time in places that sensibly close during the holidays, it’s back to work for me after a two-weeks vacation. My family had a super Christmas. Hope yours did the same. I did discover that my children are sneaky — Older & Younger Daughter conspired to give me an iPad for Christmas and kept the secret (after bringing husband JP into the loop)  ever since Black Friday, when my son-in-law apparently was conscripted to stand in line for it after Older Daughter came down with the flu. And you know I try not to be materialistic and to believe in the simple things of love and laughter, but the iPad is THE BEST THING EVER. Ever. It only leaves my hands when it’s time to finish leftover Christmas cookies. Also, husband JP took note of my Amazon wish list and I now have a gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired business-card holder and a lotion warmer that is the most luxurious thing ever and makes me think that perhaps a towel warmer is next. And then my mom gave us a monogrammed doormat, not knowing that JP only tolerates the open-scrollworked metal one we have now because although I think it’s the coolest doormat ever and totally says who we are as soon as you come to our front door, it does leave rust marks all over the porch’s concrete floor. So everybody was happy. And that’s a pretty good start to 2013.