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.

cwcslant

 

 

 

 

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.”

cwcslant

 

 

 

A Christmas story

Ah, the holidays … when everybody gathers at Grandma’s house to fight over who sleeps on the good mattress to share good times & festive traditions.

In our home, that means watching “Die Hard” (Alan Rickman, we always will miss your brilliance), downing tequila shots & YET ONCE AGAIN analyzing the emotional trauma scan_20161222inflicted on my now-30-something-year-old daughters random anonymous children forced to sit on Santa Claus’ lap. And smile.

It also means telling incredibly embarrassing stories about each other. Because, I mean, we’re all there, sitting around in relatively relaxed moods, so why not? Therefore, in the spirit of holiday generosity, I’m sharing with you all a little story we like to call “The Day of George Foreman,” or, as John Lewis Pitts some family members refer to it, “The Day Cathy Descended into Criminal Madness.”

Actually, this story does have an interactive element. Each time it’s told, listeners invariably ponder their own actions in the same situation. This leads to insightful discussion on such topics as 1) are sidewalks REALLY public property?; 2) what is the proper cooking time for a grilled cheese sandwich?; and 3) who, in fact, is George Foreman?

So, here’s the story. Decide for yourself.

A few Christmas afternoons ago, Younger Daughter — whom I for no reason whatsoever
will henceforth call, say, “Carolyn,” — and I decided to take a walk. As is usual for a Southern December, it was a mild day, perfect for strolling & chatting. As we neared the end of our route, with our house in sight, we noticed a young woman going in & out of what we assumed was her apartment. Carrying boxes & armloads of household items, she set them down on the sidewalk, near the curb & what we assumed was her car, and went back inside for more. Based on years of watching detective shows on TV on our sharply honed investigative skills, we figured she probably was moving out. We’re smart like that.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. One of us — we can’t remember wh0 but it was NOT me — suggested casually meandering over since obviously the woman was putting things out on the curb(-ish) in the time-honored manner of offering unwanted items to anyone willing to cart them off. So, let’s review: woman brings boxes & other stuff out of an apartment & leaves(-ish) them unattended(-ish) on the curb(-ish). Clearly it’s a take-my-things-please situation, right?

Because, when we crossed the street & got closer, we saw two — count ’em, TWO — George Foreman grills. Waiting. Longing for a proper home. Wanting to be loved & appreciated instead of heartlessly discarded. (-ish).15124782-new1

Admittedly I never before that moment had ever thought about owning a George Foreman grill. Older Daughter loves hers for cooking the kids’ chicken nuggets, but since our kitchen counter space is taken up with the toaster, coffee grinder and five coffee makers other kitchen essentials, I’d never considered adding one.

That’s why I was as surprised as anyone to discover, a few seconds later, that somehow I had grabbed BOTH of the George Foreman grills from the curb(-ish) & was high-tailing it  back home as Younger Daughter urged us on to a quick exit of the crime scene home.

So, what would you have done? I don’t think I actually stole the George Foreman grills, since they were just sitting there. And clearly the woman was moving out. At least, I didn’t see her car there anymore despite hours spent nervously staking out her apartment whenever I’d casually glance in that direction. So there’s that. But why did I act fast & leave even faster? Obviously I had some doubt about the woman’s intentions. Or was I concerned about my reputation as a fine upstanding citizen? I’d curb-shopped before when we lived in Muscle Shoals, Alabama (see metal filing cabinet & Pier 1 Papasan Chair, although I did ditch the cushion), but maybe the rules were different here in our little Mississippi town? Don’t know.

After I cleaned the grills (“You mean, there are still pieces of food inside?” Older Daughter said in silent condemnation.), I searched online for how to use them since, you know, the previous owner had not thought to include the instructions. One grill is a single & one is a double & I love them & use them frequently, especially when making toasted cheese sandwiches for holiday company. And I feel only a little bit guilty.

So please enjoy your family gatherings this season as you share stories of possible criminal activity. And Alan Rickman.

cwcslant

(Obviously not my actual handwriting since you can, you know, read it.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Y’all, it’s still Thanksgiving!

Yup, those are jingle bells we hear in the distance this weekend, impelling us to switch from pumpkins to snowpeople RIGHT NOW THIS VERY MINUTE because THERE’S NO TIME TO WASTE! But before we get lost in wrapping & baking & where-did-I-hide-those-Christmas-presents-I-bought-in-March (upstairs linen closet? under the guestroom bed?), let’s savor Thanksgiving a bit longer.

For the past several years, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday, mainly becausebehel-family

  1. I don’t cook
  2. I don’t decorate
  3. I don’t clean up

Obviously, I don’t have Thanksgiving at my house. (I could, you know. I could bake or roast or do whatever it is you do to turkeys. I could make cute little centerpieces out of empty peanut-butter jars & duct tape. I could smash, mash, cream & saute the heck out of anything. Really, I could. Y’all quit laughing.) Instead, husband John Pitts & I are lucky enough to enjoy Thanksgiving somewhere else that’s not covered in cat hair. Older Daughter’s in-laws always make us feel part of their family  — an extended eclectic group connected by love & respect & hospitality for all. There’s plenty of food (hello, tamales) & fellowshipbehel-family-tractor. But one of the best things about their Thanksgiving is the location: the log-cabin homeplace on an Alabama-style mountain (anywhere else it’d be a “hill”). It’s peaceful & serene and, on this Thanksgiving Day, was surrounded by the gentle beauty of a perfect Southern autumn. And here’s the thing — all that unaccustomed stillness & quiet made me sort of contemplative. Made me stop listening to my soul-sucking inner dialogue (“Does my hair look OK? Why does her hair look better? Wish my budget included getting my hair styled every day. Is she rich enough to get her hair styled every day? Why am I not rich enough to get my hair styled every day?” Rinse & repeat.) for a couple of minutes. Made me look around — REALLY look around — and appreciate the blessings I usually overlook & the relationships I usually take for granted. So, I guess, this Thanksgiving I’m grateful for being reminded to be grateful. Hope you are, too.cwcslant

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.

Three tips for holiday success

Yes, that panic you feel actually IS panic this time — pure unadulterated panic, not the kind you’ve been manufacturing because your year-end reports are due & has anybody seen your green sparkly sweater with the reindeer plus global warming, y’all. Nope, this is officially Panic Time because Dec. 25 is a week from today. One week,  people. One. Week.

But there are some things you can do to lessen your panic. Not completely get rid of it, you understand. That’s impossible because you ALWAYS will suddenly wake up at 3:31 a.m. on Dec. 23 with the certainty that although you did mail your sister’s family’s Christmas gifts in time, you definitely forgot to include your brother-in-law’s traditional bottle of Scotch, which your sister will take as subtle criticism & not call you for two weeks. That’s going to happen and you can’t do anything about it.

However, you can be prepared for/aware of other minor crises. Here are some suggestions, based on just a small sampling of my many holiday screw-ups years of expert research:

  • Family gatherings equal Game Nights, correct? Be the cool one with aIMG_2677 game that nobody’s played before. Family-friendly Qwirkle and its grown-up sibling Qwirkle Cubes are sort of dominoes, Scrabble and Hearts all rolled (sorry/not sorry for pun) into one. It truly is a game that’s easy to learn but then the more you play it, the more you realize how complex it can be. And, of course, because you are The Smart One, you downloaded the app on your phone and practiced beforehand so you can wipe up the competition with your brilliant moves share helpful advice & encouragement with those lesser players.
  • Pinterest is your friend during the holidays. Your best friend, IMG_2673actually, and she doesn’t even call you ONCE AGAIN at midnight to go over ONCE AGAIN the reasons she left her job/boyfriend/overflowing grocery cart in the middle of the frozen-food aisle ONCE AGAIN. (But you love her. You know you do.) Just browse through and you’ll find answers to any kind of holiday idea for decorating, gifting, baking, dressing for the office party — anything, really. Such as this wonderful gift idea my co-worker discovered: Add a cut-out handprint to a pair of gloves, embellish with ribbon and tuck a gift card inside one of the gloves. She did this for the student workers in our office and we added gift cards for a local restaurant because students always are 1) hungry and 2) cash-deficient. They loved it.
  • IMG_2671And, finally, as my Christmas gift to you, I’m sharing a tip to use when you’re getting dressed for those elegant and sophisticated cocktail gatherings and dinner parties and formal affairs at the embassy  the preschool Christmas program. And that tip is to pay attention to your earrings. For instance, from the back & from a distance & before you’ve put your contacts in/glasses on, these two earrings look pretty much the same, correct? I mean, they both have little sticky things poking out of the sides. Careful examination, however, reveals that one is a cute festival silver bow and the other is a manically grinning skull & crossbones. Do not wear manically grinning skull-and-crossbones earrings to the preschool Christmas program. You’re welcome.

New post at South by South Style!

Click here to read the first post in the South by South Style series on buying clothes online. First up: StitchFix. Coming soon in post no. 2: Golden Tote.

Also, husband John Pitts, I don’t know why all of those packages keep coming to our house. With my name on them. Have no idea. And, oh, you’re asking about this dress? This one? You haven’t seen me wear it before? Hmmm … well …