China & crystal & linens … oh, my!

By Cathy Wood

So, see all of those plates & dishes & things in these photos? If you’re like most of my friends & my Younger Daughter, you love this image. You see yourself sitting in front of the open doors, oohing & aahing in delight as you unearth treasures. You’ll carefully pick up each piece, inspect it for nicks, turn it over for identifying marks. You wonder about where it came from & who used it. This is your happy place.

My mom would love you. This was her happy place, too.

Well, one of them. One of approximately 132 million shelves & drawers & boxes & cabinets in her house that look just like this — plates & goblets stacked precariously, tablecloths & napkins packed tightly. All waiting for people to love them.

I am not those people. This is not my happy place. This is my oh-good-lord-what-are-we-going-to-do-with-all-of-this-stuff place.

You see, my mom loved antiques. China, crystal, silverware, tablecloths, quilts — they all found new homes in ours, She knew the layout of every antique mall within a two-hour radius & the name of every antiques dealer within three. Family vacations included negotiations between her & my dad on how many antique shops we’d stop at (although Dad himself was susceptible to glass insulators, Civil War books & farm tools). But it wasn’t the browsing & buying & bringing home that bothered me — it was how freakin’ long the process took. Determined not to miss a single item, my mom could spend hours in antiquing mode. She’d go through every hatbox, every squeaky drawer, every dark musty corner. Time had no meaning when searching for a Towle fish fork or a Heisey relish dish. I took a book with me every time we got in the car because I never knew when I’d have two hours of waiting-for-Mom-to-finish-looking time.

At one point, she started what we’d call today a “side hustle.” She became the original 1980s Girl Boss. At her peak, she had at least six booths at various antiques malls, a small open-by-appointment-only antiques shop at my dad’s retirement project/tree farm and a robust series of much-anticipated yard sales. And she loved every minute. After my dad died in 2016, she shifted from active antiques hunting to enjoying her acquisitions at home. She put a comfy chair in the sunroom and filled the bookshelves with price guides and file folders. We’d often find her asleep with an antiques magazine in one hand & a pen in the other. She and her caregivers spent hours cleaning & arranging & rearranging & putting away & taking back out again. She looked forward to visits from my Younger Daughter, Carolyn, who got the antiques gene that had skipped me. She & her Grommy talked hat pins & beaded purses & Bakelite jewelry. I’d go read.

Mom died in 2020 from complications of Parkinson’s. My brothers & I discussed What To Do for more than a year. Turning everything over to an expert for appraisals & sales seemed easiest. But during the quiet times of quarantine, I’d been thinking, too — about the joy Mom got from collecting, her enthusiasm when sharing finds with others, her directives to not break up this collection or split up that china set after she was gone. I remembered the times I rolled my eyes as new old things appeared week after week and my firm refusals every time she offered something she thought I might like but knew I wouldn’t take home. (Had I hurt her feelings? I’m afraid I probably did.) But I also remembered the project we’d started in the last year of her life — we’d pick out a room, she’d sit down & I’d go from object to object, asking questions & taking notes.

I wish I’d asked more questions & taken more notes.

But maybe I can do something similar now, I thought as the time for signing estate-sale contracts got closer. Maybe I could make up for my past impatience, my dismissiveness of china patterns & goblet styles & what does “Made in Japan” really mean? I couldn’t listen to my mom’s stories anymore, but maybe I could help create more. I could do my best to make sure her treasures were honored & celebrated even if I hadn’t done that during her life.

So Carolyn & I decided to manage things ourselves. As we clean out & organize & prep for sales, we’ll show you what we find & tell you what we find out. This is the place to share stories & memories — both ours & yours. Check back frequently for sale dates.

Telling and Selling Memories

By Carolyn Myers

Growing up, my favorite place was my Grommy’s (and Poppy’s) house. After a quick greeting, I would immediately go exploring for hours. Like all of the other great museums, it could take a lifetime to see everything on display. Every wall, surface, closet and drawer held (too many?) items of interest, and I loved it all.

And Grommy loved me for it.

After hours of hunting, I would show her my finds. Maybe an old Pyrex bowl, or a flour-sack apron, or a collection of postcards from the early 20th century. or her great-grandmother’s hand mirror and hairbrush or a quilt made before the Civil War, or … or… It didn’t matter what I found or the price listed on the item in her beautiful handwriting — she’d let me keep whatever I discovered. After I thanked her profusely, she would usually smile and say, “Most of this will be yours someday anyway; might as well take it now.” No one else in the family shared my love and fascination with her treasures, and she knew I would appreciate them like she did.

So, when Grommy died on Feb. 29, 2020, we thought we knew exactly how to proceed: Each family member would pick out favorite items and then an estate sale would take care of the rest. Mom and I would plan weekend trips to fill a couple boxes each of mementos — we estimated we could have the clearing-up part done in two or three visits and then we’d set the sale for later this summer.

Easy peasy.

Also wrong.

We soon realized the enormity of this task and our reluctance to simply fill a few boxes and be done with it. Honoring Grommy, honoring our family history and the legacy of what she built and left us, was too heavy and too much to tackle in one summer.

In conversations with my mom about our options, we also realized that we weren’t ready to be done with this task. Granted, we couldn’t feasibly keep all of her treasures, but we couldn’t stand the thought of a stranger coming in to sell it all before we learned more about Grommy’s life’s work. We weren’t ready to let go of her treasures, her memory. We needed more time to honor her (and Poppy), what they built and what they left as their legacy.

So here we are. A year and half after Grommy left us, we are picking up the (thousands and thousands of) pieces. My mom and I, with the rest of the family’s blessing, have a plan. She and I are working our way through the rooms full of antiques and collectibles Grommy delighted in finding and displaying for decades. Our idea is to host events at the house where you can explore and find treasures for yourselves (details to come). Along with those events, we’ll share the stories we discover – stories about teapots & crystal, linens & china, books, prints, Hummels, Depression glass and more. This is our work: Understanding more of our family’s history, discovering relics of American history, paying tribute to the beautiful and overwhelming world of collectibles and antiques, all while grieving the loss of a complicated and wonderful woman. We are not professional curators or antique sellers (Mom is a professional writer, thank goodness!), but we are ready to get to work and excited to share our adventures with you all.

Check our Rooted in Memories Facebook page frequently for details.

My daughters know me so well

I’m still talking about Christmas presents because —

  1. we only recently took down the tree.
  2. I just last week found some gifts I’d opened Christmas morning & then carefully placed in a safe spot so I wouldn’t lose them/forget them/accidentally throw them away. It’s Christmas every day at our house!
  3. my daughters gave me such awesome presents that I want to share.

It won’t surprise you to learn that all three things are true. But let’s focus on the third thing because it’s the most true: My daughters – – two incredible women in their sort-of mid-30s — are THE BEST present-givers ever. They must have learned this skill from the Internets because I sure didn’t teach them.

  • Older Daughter gave me something I’ve never had or thought about having before: a image0facial. I am 62 years old & have never had a facial. Is that normal? I don’t know–somehow I always associated facials with stars & celebrities & people who say, offhandedly, “But that handbag is only $5,000–a steal!” After all, I’m from the Pond’s/Noxzema generation with a dash of hippie-natural. I mean, I always thought that your face is your face. It’s going to go through some things (with deepest apologies to Marie L. Yovanovitch) & there’s nothing a normal non-celebrity person can do about it. But I was wrong. Thank goodness Older Daughter knew that I was wrong & decided to do something about it. (Again, I have no idea who taught her such impressive adult behavior. I should take notes.) I know I probably won’t look 10 years younger when it’s done, but literally putting my face in somebody else’s hands is going to be relaxing & fun. One question  — How close to your facial date do you remove chin hair? Asking for a friend.
  • Younger Daughter excels at finding gifts that make you think “This was absolutely made for me & now I never want to be without it.” I am both a notebook & writing-image2implement addict AND a make-up newbie (see above on facials). So what better gift than Sephora makeup brushes in the shapes of classic yellow No. 2 pencils? Yellow No. 2 pencils! This is genius & I sort of want to find the designers & shake their hands. Or write them a thank-you note with, you know, a classic yellow No. 2 pencil. Younger Daughter also gifted me this Ruth Bader Ginsburg keychain string doll. I love her. She’s the perfect size & has accompanied me practically everywhere since I got her & I credit her with all good things that have happened to me since. She goes with the RBG dissension necklace Younger Daughter gave me the previous year. I need to start wearing it every day, as well.

Thanks for letting me brag about my brilliant daughters reading. What are some presents your grown children have given you? And are you surprised that they learned such mature behavior AFTER they grew up–seems like only yesterday we were saying, “Please don’t throw My Little Ponies at your sister.”

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P.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 otherwise, I can’t be bought. (Also blue. I like Dark Adriatic Blue.)

Was Dec. 25 really only 25 days ago?

Yes. Yes, it was. Only 25 days ago you were knee-deep in LEGO boxes & sugar-cookie crumbs & desperately trying to remember if you’d wrapped everything correctly because it sure looks your third-favorite sister-in-law is opening the bracelet you bought for your second-favorite sister-in-law. Oops.

(Side note: I’m sitting here with my computer while A Very Important Football Game is on TV & I’m, like, “Oh, it’s the cute guy from the insurance commercials. Aaron somebody.” This is the extent of my NFL knowledge.)

Returning to the Great Gifting Extravaganza of 25 days ago–remember how, before image3Dec. 25, we’d anguished over our burgeoning holiday gift list? Remember how we second-guessed every purchase & debated every gift-card-v.-actual-item decision? We worried & stressed & considered paying extra for the super-duper-extra-fast-guaranteed-delivery-yesterday-or-maybe-next-week shipping because we wanted to give everybody the perfect present. But, right now–25 days later–can you remember what those presents were? I have to admit that for me it’s all faded into a warm fuzzy memory of “thank-yous” & hugs & those Dec. 25 words every grandparent longs to hear: “It’s exactly what I wanted!”

However, I DO remember the awesomely wonderful presents I opened 25 days, and I bet you do, too. We focus so intently on our own holiday shopping that we forget it’s a two-way process. I need to grab a gratitude journal & remind myself because my family includes some of the best present-picker-outers ever. Here’s proof:

  • OK, it’s true that my husband John Pitts didn’t actually go out & buy the BrevilleIMG_2325 Barista Express Espresso Machine for me. But he DID say “go for it” when I told him I had ordered was going to order it & it it could be my Christmas present & I really really wanted it because had he noticed I hadn’t been making espresso lately because my other machine leaked all over the kitchen counter & we can’t have that but we must have espresso. Must. Have. Espresso. At least, I think he said “go for it.” He might have said “What the @#$% do you need a $500 coffee machine for?” I wasn’t really listening. But this? This is life. I love it so hard. We have deep meaningful conversations every morning. We understand each other completely. There was a learning curve in which I doubted myself a couple of times but we finally figured each other out. If you appreciate good coffee as well as the process of making it, then this is a must-have.image1
  • I have two sisters-in-law & they are both generous, loving & giving women who care about things such as equality & environment. One of them gifted me this gorgeous World Wide Fund scarf. It’s a meaningful gift because it reminds me 1) to be more like my sisters-in-law instead of pondering such minor annoyances as “Do you think my ears are different sizes–like feet? Because the left AirPod always slips out.”; 2) “WWF” stands for “World Wide Fund” & not “World Wildlife Fund” or “World Wrestling Federation” because legalities & trademarks, people, and 3) the WWF website has disturbing reports on the Australian wildfire & other climate-change news–and it’s not good. Take a minute & read for yourself. My sis-in-law says “thank you.”

But, wait! There’s more! Come back tomorrow for more gifting fun & other goodies.

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P.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 otherwise, I can’t be bought. (Also blue. I like Dark Adriatic Blue.)

These are a bunch of my favorite things — Part 1: Shopping while everybody else is watching The Game

Note: This is Part 1 of a continuing series about some of my favorite things that you need to know about so they can be your favorites, too. Check back frequently for the latest–and share your favorites, too.

 

There’s this Big Football Game (remember that you can’t say “Super Bowl” unless you’re an NFL team owner or actually playing in the game) coming up. Then, in a few weeks, Massive March (basketball) Madness happens. So because of these important televised Sports-Ball Games at which your people request your couch presence, you’ll probably be spending more time in front of the TV–you know, that big screen on your wall you keep forgetting to dust because you’re snuggled up in bed watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” And even if you’re a passionate I’ve-worn-my-team-shirt-for-12-straight-days fan who notices all the things–or you’re a casual observer who only REALLY pays attention when there’s a chance Alabama will get the @#$% beat out of them–it’s difficult to completely 100 percent focus on every single play 100 percent of the entire game. Sometimes you need a break–something quiet & unobtrusive that won’t earn you side eyes from those who frown on game-time side chatter.

Solution? Shopping on your phone.

Sure, you could do something like sit there & read a book or knit a sweater or grade some papers. (Wait, CAN you knit a sweater? Because if you can, you totally should do that, anyway.) But doing something that’s so obviously NOT watching the game is a bit I’ve-got-more-important-things-to-do-thank-you-very-much rude. Of course you could use your phone to play games or check email or engage in a Twitter war while everybody else debates an offside call. But those things take focus & concentration, too, and may cause you to be that person who looks up & asks plaintively “What happened? Why is everybody yelling? What did I miss?” Don’t be that person.

Shopping on your phone, on the other hand, is the perfect watching-but-maybe-not-so-much activity: You’re engaged enough to participate in game commentary but you’re also doing something nice for yourself. Win-win. Which–fun fact–is completely unlike the Sports Ball you’re (supposed to be) watching.

So, for your Big Game Day sort-of-watching pleasure, here are three of my favorite online boutiques. These are for mainly women’s clothes & accessories because that’s mainly what I shop for. I’ve got several other favorites, but these are simply the ones where I’ve recently spent waaay too much money because there’s so much cuteness & so many sales that I thought of first.

  • Lemons and Limes Boutique–Owned & run by the amazing Wendy Knight from her home in Loveland, Ohio, this is the place for fun & affordable jewelry, stylish yet useful handbags and unique items from her own product line, Lauren Lane. Double-stud earrings? Mix-and-match stretch bead necklaces? A purse you really & truly can wear five different ways? Lemons & Limes had them first. And now you can, too.  cropped-cwcslantCoffee with Cathy tip: Wendy has the best subscription shipments, grab bags & mystery auction boxes. The. Best. Even if you think you don’t like surprises, I guarantee you’ll like these.
  • Prep Obsessed–Best friends Nina Vitalino & Corey O’Loughlin started their boutique in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, six years ago … and shopping has never been the same. Known for their colorful Florida vibe, the two entrepreneurs & their hard-working team offer curated collections of Spartina, Simply Southern, Corkcicle, All for Color & other classic brands both online & in their store.  cropped-cwcslantCoffee with Cathy tip: New gotta-haves go fast, so don’t delay clicking “Add to cart.” (I NEVER hesitate.) However, Corey & Nina restock whenever things are available, so wait-listed items usually get fulfilled.
  • Tag Online Boutique–Julie Knight, of Cincinnati, couldn’t find an online clothing boutique that offered style & fit at accessible prices, so, four years ago, she started her own. “TAG” stands for “Trendy, Affordable & Gorgeous”–and everything she sells on her website meets that promise. Shop here for dresses, outerwear & separates–Julie was the one who introduced Magic Pants to the world.  cropped-cwcslantCoffee with Cathy tip:  Join the Tag Facebook group for discounts on new releases, fabric info & to see items modeled by women of different sizes.

Each of the hundreds dozens one or two times I’ve shopped these boutiques, I’ve been amazed at the helpful customer service & quick shipping times. Each of these businesses is run by women–women with families & in some cases women with other jobs. Each of these boutiques gives back by helping individuals who could use a boost & by contributing to non-profits that help others. It’s win-win-win-win. Again, please don’t say that during The Game. The purpose of any sports ball is one–and ONLY one–win. Only in shopping can there be many winners. True story.

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. (Also blue. I like the Dark Adriatic Blue.)

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.

Things that really annoy me & I probably should let them go but maybe I don’t want to, so there

First, let’s be clear: I do try to practice gratitude. Every day I’m grateful for having a house & a job & too much food & a spouse who loves me even when I do stupid stuff. I say “thank you” to the jeans that don’t fit anymore before I kick them out of my closet (as instructed by the Queen of Tidying Up). I appreciate little kindnesses from random strangers. I stop to smell the roses–as long as there aren’t, you know, bees & thorns & snakes & wasps hanging around & I don’t have to walk through mud or anything.

You do those things, too, I bet–practice gratitude. But, let’s be honest. Down deep, in the inner reaches of our soul where nobody knows we can eat an entire bag of Cheetos by ourselves, we count our pet peeves rather than our blessings. I don’t know why we’re reluctant to ignore those tiny annoyances that rile us up. It’s probably an ancient evolutionary thing: heavy sighs, eye rolls & inward groans could be ways our bodies keep us sharp & always on the lookout for the next Tyrannosaurus attack. Or whatever.

So here’s my (partial & always evolving) list of Things That Annoy the **** Out of Me. Besides, of course, puppy-kickers, anything & everyone related to anybody named Kardashian and everything about the White House since Jan. 20, 2017.

  • Students who ask me questions that are answered on the syllabus. I’m an adjunct journalism instructor at a local university & for some reason I am especially annoyed when students ask me things that are RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF THEM. “When is the exam?”, “What are we doing Wednesday?” and “How do I submit my story?” are all in 12 point Times New Roman RIGHT THERE ON THE SYLLABUS. At the beginning of every semester, I tell them: “DO NOT ASK ME QUESTIONS THAT ARE ANSWERED ON THE SYLLABUS. I will not be happy if you do that.” Yet every semester they do it. All. The. Time. So, also: Students who don’t listen when I tell them things.
  • People waiting at a checkout register who immediately start knocking other people over to be first when a new lane opens. I mean, bless their hearts, where are they even going & is it worth the ill will they’re piling up, karma-wise? Look, when you’re hunting for the shortest checkout, it’s all go: stalking backed-up lines, calculating ratio of cart contents to cashier speed & figuring out how many people will need tutorials on Using A Card Reader. Everybody has an equal chance to observe, quantify the data & make a choice. At this crucial selection phase, self-preservation is key. May the odds be in your favor. But once you’ve made your choice & committed to your preferred lane, you are locked in, baby. No do-overs. No take-backs. You are no longer a solitary shopper focused on your own needs. Once in line, you are part of a community. Part of a linked chain that depends on everybody being patient & respectful of The Process. You’re in line? You’ll eventually check out. Unless a cashier quietly & politely offers you a new lane, hold steady. Dashing off willy-nilly to chase the rumor of a new register opening up just invites chaos. And eye rolls. Be one with your line.
  • Lima beans will always make my worst-things-ever-in-the-whole-world lists. Lima beans are a blot on humanity. What are lima beans, anyway? Do we even know? Have you ever seen a lima-bean farm? No. No, you haven’t. Then where do they come from? All I know is that they are disgusting little pods of watery green mushiness. That is a proven (by me) fact.

So there you have it–a partial list of things that really annoy me. And I didn’t even get to co-workers who steal the parking spot you’ve been eyeing for the past eight minutes and anti-wrinkle lotions that do not get rid of wrinkles so WHY DID YOU GET MY HOPES UP & MAKE ME SPEND $150??? Stay tuned …

cropped-cwcslant1.jpgP.S. Remember that nobody pays me 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.

How much red, white & blue is too much?

Every time a holiday rolls around, I struggle with the same question, fashion-wise: To embrace celebratory colors with fun & festive exuberance or make a grownup move toward subtlety & sophistication?

Yeah, subtlety & sophistication never win in my closet.

I blame the 1980s. And the ’90s. All of that economic growth & McMansion building & IMG_8114 (Edited)hey-have-you-heard-about-this-thing-called-the-internet led to a optimistic feel-good-ism. Which, for some reason, led to a proliferation of sweatshirts decorated with teddy bears & ribbons & puffy plastic paint. And since the competitive get-ahead 1980s and ’90s was my prime daughter-raising period, I was fully committed to whatever my-young-mom-friends were doing so that I could do it better to creating special memories for my children. This was the era of the Ugly Christmas Sweater, although we didn’t know they were ugly & we bought a new one every year because new ones were at Proffitt’s & Parisian & Castner-Knott every year. But our true love was seasonal sweatshirts. We were fully committed to marking each holiday with the appropriate colored sweatshirts IMG_8113decorated with the appropriate colored … well … decorations. I don’t know how else to describe this sweatshirt frenzy that overtook us. We bought books. We stocked up on hot-glue sticks & glitter. We debated 100 percent cotton over a nylon-cotton blend. Each approaching holiday was an opportunity to showcase our creativity, our access to a Michaels and our deep & abiding dedication to our children. After all, nothing says “I love you, sweetie pie. Now stop picking off those sequins I glued on at 2 this morning.” like strongly encouraging your child to wear a sweatshirt you made at the last minute for Heather M.’s (you always had to identify which Heather you were talking about because there were at least five in every class) birthday party because you’d heard that Heather R.’s mom wiped out the entire inventory of neon pink and DAMN IT, NOBODY IS GOING TO BEAT ME AT THE NEON-PINK SWEATSHIRT GAME.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the other moms actually were just being creative & I was the only one vying for first place.

So the years passed & soon my daughters moved from My Little Ponies & Care Bears to “The Tribe” & “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” & the Age of the Sweatshirts was over. And it wasn’t just my family. All across the country, glue guns gathered dust. Little bottles of puffy paint dried up. Our beloved crafting books became yard-sale staples. Sigh. But a tiny voice in my head still says, as holidays such as the upcoming Fourth of July get closer, “Maybe you should wear that T-shirt with the stars and the stripes on the pocket? What about those flag earrings? Or perhaps the red-white-and-blue bracelet stack?”

And maybe Hobby Lobby is having a sale on sweatshirts …

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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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WTH, trendy fashion? Or why I don’t understand jeans with holes in the knees

Fashion, you are such a fickle godess of cuteness. Just when we figure you out, you start messing with us. Just when we achieve a glimmer of understanding, you pull a switcheroo. Do you think we can’t see what you’re doing? (No, really, I can’t see what you’re doing … where did I put my glasses? Give me a minute here … I just had them … )

(Thirteen-and-a-half minutes later … ) Anyway, I know that fashion is all about making us want new things so we’ll go buy the new things and somebody will make a bunch of money although probably not the people who actually MADE the new things innovation & creativity & fresh new ideas. Fashion is change. Constant change. If it wasn’t, we’d all be wearing Birkenstocks, chokers, matchy-match separates & backpacks from the ’90s.

Oh, wait …

However, there are some trends popping up this fall that I seriously question. I can almost wrap my head around denim overalls. I get why crop tops work. And who can argue against a pair of high-top Converse? But there are a few things that I just can’t. Just cannot, at all.

  • First up–and please remember that these are my personal non-preferences & if coldthey’re some of your favorite things ever in the whole world then cold shoulderwhat do I know?–are cold shoulders. I simply do not understand the cold- shoulder style. I mean, look at these women. It’s obviously cool enough for them to wear long pants & long sleeves. It’s cool enough for the model in all black to opt for a high neck & the other model to go for a sweater. A freakin’ SWEATER. This means that the temperature probably is no higher than the low 60s or upper 50s. That’s chilly, people. That’s hot-chocolate-and-a-blanket weather. Frostbite is a distinct possibility. So, given what we’ve learned, why would we want to expose our shoulders to potentially freezing temperatures? It’s right there in the name: COLD SHOULDER. Could not be any plainer. It’s as if you bought a pair of pants named “flat-butt jeans” or shoes called “extremely painful & dangerous high heels.” This is one instance where fashion is helpfully warning us before we buy. We should listen.
  • jeansSecond is jeans with holes in the knees, but not for the reasons you probably think. Yes, it is true that probably every woman over 35 contemplating a purchase like this has flashbacks to being forced to throw out her favorite childhood jeans because the knees were starting to wear through & no amount of patching could save them. And, yes, it’s also true that seeing the price tags on something that literally is precariously being held together by a few threads makes my raised-by-Depression-era-parents frugality kick in. But the main reason I do not understand jeans with holes in them is this: Look, what’s one of the main reasons for wearing pants? I mean, besides staying warm & providing a suitable background to awesome new boots? No, we all know that the top No. 1 reason for wearing pants is so you don’t have to shave your legs. With holey jeans, however, you’re wasting a perfectly good opportunity to give up shaving for one more day.  You should not have to pick up your razor to wear a pair of jeans. Just sayin’.
  • And then there’s camo. I DO understand camo. Camo is for hunting. Camo is for18301804_1398828510160567_7219919048816544789_n 20431480_1484884338221650_8982695899421444336_nawesome women who are strong & skilled & determined. Camo is for blending in when you’re trying to outfox a … well, you know. Where I live, women wear camo all the time. TO GO HUNTING. Camo isn’t fashion. It’s a tool. That being said, these camo-print soft stretchy shorts are pretty cute. And comfy-looking. They’d be great with a cozy soft black sweatshirt or maybe a black T-shirt & a long fuzzy cardigan. And speaking of cardigans, that camo cardi truly is adorable, don’t you think? Versatile, too. Maybe with a pair of distressed jeans?
  • Finally, there are these:Capture

The new fashion trend of shaping velvet ankle leggings–formerly known as “socks.”

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