Good things — Mississippi football & grandbabies

coversOh my goodness. I don’t know about you, but things have been CRAAAZY around here lately. For one, my husband right now is the most important person in the state of Mississippi. Well, one of the most important. Well, OK, an important person. (And, of course, to me he always is the most important person everywhere. This commercial message brought to you by the institution of marriage and soulmate-age.) Why is this, you ask? What has 10624932_10203004590851939_4174530144616862315_nhe done to bring such fame and fortune? Of course, those who know John L. Pitts are not surprised to discover the extent of his influence, but lately he holds in his hands, literally, the story that is shaking up everything IMG_4031anyone knows about football: namely, that the two teams his newspaper, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, in Tupelo, covers — Mississippi State and Ole Miss — are in the top 10 in the AP poll. And, as of right now this very minute, they are no. 1 and no. 3 respectively. Pretty amazing. And now there’s Heisman talk? All I know is that for the past few weeks, my sports editor husband has been working pretty much 24/7 to cover this national story for his local readers — not easy. But, as always, he’s excelling. Of course, this could explain his recent encounter with a deer, on cara heavily traveled road less than a mile from our downtown. I really don’t like to think too hard about this. And what’s even stranger is that my Republican-voting, NRA-supporting, Obama-criticizing husband went and bought a new car that’s synonymous with all he makes fun of: a Prius. It’s the mileage, you know. And the anti-deer capabilities.

Grandson no. 3!Well, those are not even the most exciting things to happen to our family lately. Our third precious grandbaby-boy got born last weekend. Older Daughter and son-in-law did an amazing job of completely un-medicated childbirth in a hospital suite dedicated to a natural and drug-free experience. She is a warrior mom, through and through. I did un-medicated by accident with Younger Daughter (Me: “I really think that we need to go to the hospital now.” Husband-at-the-time: “No. You can’t be that close to pushing yet.” Folks at the hospital as soon as we got there: “Get this woman to delivery stat!!!”), and there’s something to be said for it — now that I’m 28 years away and have pretty much forgotten the details. And speaking of totally awesome Younger Daughter, she now shares her birthday with her third nephew, which is the second shared birthday in our family. I think we’re on a roll.

My Three Papers

my three papersThis is the one spot in the world — that I know of, at least — where three of my worlds collide. And, strangely enough, I’m pretty much the only person who takes notice of such a significant location. Everybody else just hurries past because they have Things To Do. But not me. Well, I usually do have Things To Do, but whenever I’m here at this spot, I always stop and consider that I have at one time worked and/or am currently working for all of these newspapers. I just think that’s … well, I’m not sure what I think about it. Only that these three papers represent a huge chunk of what I do and who I am and, as different as they are from each other, it’s sort of jarring, I guess, to see them all lined up. It’s the majority of my working life, lurking outside of Jack’s in Iuka, Miss. And then, of course, I get to thinking about newspapers (see “the demise of “) and friends & talented journalists who are moving on before they get moved and the painfully irretrievable loss that is. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh. On the other hand, each of these papers serves its community brilliantly, and I’m honored to be a tiny part of that success. (Also: They all have “Daily” in the title although one of them is lying.)

Good job, Nature!

Most bloggers/photographers/writers find stunning spider webs in beautifully inspiring settings -- sunrise over a mountain, a softly lit field of daisies, etc.  I, on the other hand, get spider webs under plastic newspaper boxes, in front of a utility pole and with a parking in the background. Sigh. But still: Nature, you are way cool. Even if you don't give me the National Geographic shots I deserve.
Most bloggers/photographers/writers find stunning spider webs in beautifully inspiring settings — sunrise over a mountain, a softly lit field of daisies, etc. I, on the other hand, get spider webs under plastic newspaper boxes, in front of a utility pole and with a parking in the background. Sigh. But still: Nature, you are way cool. Even if you don’t give me the National Geographic shots I deserve.

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.

When Sports Editors Leave Town

This is my husband. This is my husband on vacation. I offer it as photographic proof that he actually can get away from his office occasionally and relax. Like most newspaper folks and especially like most newspaper editors and doubly especially like most newspaper sports folks, heImage is dedicated to and enthusiastic about his job. To him, following sports stories online for six hours straight isn’t “work” — it’s just what he does. And he does it well. He also is an exceptional boss. He supports and encourages the sportswriters and copy editors he works with and never asks anybody to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Like be at the newspaper 12, 15, 20 consecutive days. In a row. Now, he and I both are pretty independent people — having a commuter marriage for several years will do that to you — and I rarely invoke a wifely clause but sometimes I just have to insist we Get Away. Luckily, there’s a window of relative calm that comes after college baseball and before SEC Media Days when he’ll agree to sneak off for a week, provided he can take 1) his laptop, 2) his cell phone and 3) my laptop, tablet and smartphone for back-up. He even wandered out to the beach a couple of times. But at least being almost 400 miles from the newspaper prevented those “I think I’ll just run over to the office for a little bit” moments.

Lunch

DSCN2579No, this is not what I’m planning for lunch today. Because that would be silly. You don’t indulge in this much rich & yummy frosted baked goodness for your mid-day meal. These gems from Sweet Treats Bakery, in Tupelo, Miss., strictly are breakfast items. (Note No. 1: Actually, lunch today is a leftover half of the Mediterranean Veggie Flatbread Sandwich from City Hardware in downtown Florence, Ala., home of the only balcony dining on Court Street. Note No. 2: I wouldn’t actually eat ALL of this for breakfast. Some crumbs would remain. And Note No. 3: Both of these places are locally owned and locally managed eateries that serve fresh & flavorful food accompanied by friendly smiles and welcoming attitudes. Highly recommended — and that’s a completely unsolicited and un-paid-for recommendation.)

An Area of Concern

An Area of Concern

This sign continues to crack me up every time I drive by it — which is pretty much twice a day. I have two questions: 1) Since this billboard still is up in May yet advertises a March special, can customers still take advantage of the offer? And perhaps more importantly, 2) exactly what constitutes an “area?” Is it measured by square inch? By proximity? If I have a little tattoo on, say, my ankle but then a big ol’ one on my back, does that count? And who are these people pictured, anyway? Why are they so insanely happy? And gorgeous? Does hair and-or tattoo removal do this to you? If so, perhaps I should get a tattoo and then sign up for its demise. I just need a second area.

Friends (and Family) with Words

Here are some conversations I recently have heard, been part of, eavesdropped on and otherwise been amused/horrified/fascinated by:

1) I didn’t pay attention to the two sweet elderly white-haired women talking quietly in the local diner’s corner booth until one of them jabbed her fried-chicken leg in her companion’s face and said, loudly and emphatically, “Well, why should she even try when somebody’s always covering her butt?” She then took a bite out of the chicken leg and their conversation continued softly. Wish I could have heard the rest. I’m guessing the “she” in question is the two women’s baby sister who even years ago was everybody’s favorite … and still is.

2) A non-profit I work with hosts receptions for its corporate sponsors. One of my jobs is to liaison between the sponsors, who can invite whoever and how many ever folks they want, and the volunteers who cook and decorate for the party. The volunteer in charge of the food for this specific reception was in our office kitchen and asked me how many guests the sponsor was bringing.

“He told me it wouldn’t even be 100,” I said, proud I’d talked to the sponsor that morning and had a ready answer.

“Well, that doesn’t help us much,” the volunteer said, rolling her eyes at my incompetence. “‘Not 100’ could be 20 or 80.”

She was correct, of course. Anxious to redeem myself, I backtracked quickly. “I’ll check with him again. What’s the deadline for when you need an exact count?”

Busy counting napkins and cocktail plates, she shrugged. “Oh, it doesn’t really matter. We always cook for 50, no matter what.”

3) An Episcopal priest I know relayed the story of her 2-year-old daughter’s new book of Old Testament stories. My friend started out reading every word to her daughter but then, as bedtime got closer, began summarizing paragraphs with “And then God was sad because the people acted ugly.” (Just like putting grapes in your chicken salad and letting any part of your underwear show in public, “acting ugly” is something Southern children are taught not to do. Ever.) The little girl then got impatient with the reading pace and flipped through the rest of the book, turning pages and chanting, “They acted ugly. They acted ugly. They acted ugly.” Thousands of years and millions of words of Old Testament analysis boiled down to three words.

4) On a gorgeous spring day, I was playing Ninja-Turtle-Star-Wars-Pirates with our 5-year-old grandson in the backyard. I was the lookout on top of the slide in case Penguin attacked us (he does not like to mix up his food but gleefully combines his Super Hero fighters). However, lookouts need naps, too, so I sat on the bottom of the slide, leaned back and contemplated the perfectly blue spring sky. Breaking character for moment, he came up behind me. “Kacky. O, Kacky! I’ve got a dead slug I’m going to put in your hair,” he said, chuckling. “That is so cute,” I thought to myself. “How adorable that he’d pretend to do something so icky to tease me. What a sweetie.” That’s when I heard Older Daughter yelling, “STOP RIGHT THERE AND DO NOT PUT THAT DEAD SLUG IN KACKY’S HAIR!” He did warn me.

A Sweet Valentine’s Day

I love my husband. I love endless chocolate. I love Valentine’s Day, road Valentine's dessertstrips and the great state of Tennessee. Not to mention literacy and newspapers. So you know where husband JP and I had our Valentine’s Day date this year: at the “For the Love of Literacy” dessert tasting in Selmer, Tenn., where all of these favorite things converge into one can’t-miss extravaganza. The Independent Appeal newspaper, in Selmer, hosts this wildly popular annual Valentine’s event to benefit the McNairy County Literacy Council. It’s sugar & chocolate & all-things-yummy beyond your wildest high-fat-content Valentine's cakedreams. Businesses, churches, book clubs, other non-profits and both professional and amateur bakers bring out their best recipes to woo the judges for best-of titles and sway the crowd for people’s choice votes. It’s all chocolate, all evening and you’d better start slow or you’ll regret it later. JP and I have learned to be discriminating — Valentine cookiestwo cake pops instead of three, three pieces of fudge instead of four and only one trip back for more Strawberry Surprise or double-mocha espresso brownies. But it’s all for a good cause. I mean, that’s the ONLY reason I ate all those mini peanut-butter cupcakes and had to sample the tiramisu twice. I’m passionate about literacy like that. Also, I did pick up on some dessert trends, because I had to have some excuse for circling the room eight times I always am on the food-reporting beat for you. For example, classics such as the no-bake chocolate-oatmeal cookies seem to be making a comeback, items with organic and natural ingredients are on the rise and, as always, appearance and decorations are key. The things I do just to keep you all updated …

Who’s on First & Chewing Strawberry Gum?

One of my part-time jobs is working at the local community theatre, where my title of “managing director” sounds impressive but only means I have fewer mouse traps in my office than everybody else. I handle publicity and marketing and am having a blast learning more about the the-ah-ter (said with dramatic flourishes). And theatre people are so … well, interesting? Theatrical? Creative? Also: Actors. Take this conversation I overheard the other day from my office, which faces the main thoroughfare folks use to wander in and out.

Person No. 1, who had just walked in the lobby — It smells good in here, like strawberries.
Person No. 2, who had been there all day — There was a teenage girl in here earlier.
PN1 — Yeah, I saw the Facebook status about young people coming in and wanting to get involved with the theatre. That’s great.
PN2 — I know! We’ve had several folks get in touch with us this week. It’s great to see such enthusiasm. We really can use all the new faces and the youthful energy. She was chewing gum.
PN1 — Who was chewing gum?
PN2 — The girl who was in here earlier.
PN1, not quite sure what he’s supposed to say about the gum-chewing teenager — Well. Chewing gum, huh. How about that.
PN2 — And it was strawberry.
PN1 — What was strawberry?
PN2 — The gum she was chewing.
PN1, dazed and confused by now and obviously wondering if Person No. 2 thinks chewing strawberry gum is an indicator of theatrical skill and ambition  — Huh. Well. Is that, like, a thing now? Chewing strawberry gum?
(Conversation temporarily halted by muffled laughter coming from my office)
PN2, not quite sure where she lost control of the conversation, to PN1 — What? What are you talking about?
PN1 — What are YOU talking about?
PN2 — I’m talking about the fact that it smells like strawberries because a girl was in here a few minutes ago chewing strawberry gum.
PN1 — Can we start over?