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 …

That Just Happened, or Things I’ve Heard Lately That Made Me Laugh

I know, I know. An all-SEC men’s basketball final would not be good for the sport, but I still fantasize about the joys of a Florida v. Kentucky battle. Sadly, it’s not to be. This year, at least. So now the question is can Kentucky defend SEC’s honor? We’ll see …

In the meantime, here are some things people have said to me or I’ve (over)heard that made me laugh — sometimes embarrassingly loud and obnoxiously. What can I say? I like a good laugh.

  • Our newly 6- and 2 1/2-year-old grandsons came to stay with us for a few days last week. Older Daughter is expecting So-Far-Unidentified Grandbaby no. 3. At one point Younger Grandson and I were talking about family. “What do you think Mommy’s doing right now?” I asked. “Mommy tired. Mommy lay down,” he said. That pretty much covers it.
  • One of the things Older Grandson did while at our house was set up an obstacle course for his brother using my workout gear (cardio steps, yoga blocks, hand weights and stretch bands). He then asked for paper and markers. “Are you going to draw medals for him?” I asked, admiring his creativity. “No, Kacky,” he sighed in the way that means “Dear old Kacky — let me explain to you how this new-fangled world works” and looked at me patiently. “I’m going to download his medals from medals.com.” Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?
  • Even Younger Grandson knows his way around mobile devices. We were staring intently at my iPad, waiting on a new game. He looked up at me and nodded wisely. “Loading,” he said.
  • On to some adult humor. Not “adult” in that way — “adult” in the “I-did-something-so-silly-that-my-husband-fussed-at-me-and-I-couldn’t-even-tell-my-mom” way. And, strangely enough, by “I” this time I DO NOT mean “me.” Anyway, this past weekend I was a hostess for our town’s home and garden tour. My assignment was in the house of a young couple who had just renovated their first home. The husband, who shall remain anonymous for reasons to become clear, owns one of our favorite restaurants in town. Between my tour speech (“The master bedroom previously was a den. The bathroom and walk-in closet were added in 2010.”), I of course spent LOTS of time chatting in the kitchen. One conversation turned to gardening, and the wife talked about her commitment to avoiding pesticides and herbicides in their yard. “In fact, last year I ordered ladybugs from amazon.com because I’d read they eat aphids,” she said. We older women, including her mother, sort of glanced at each other, thinking — I’m sure — the same thing: “You actually ordered bugs for your garden? Through the mail?” Maybe one of us even said this aloud because she grimaced and said, “I know. I know. And (insert husband’s name here) even got upset with me because I had them sent to the restaurant. I didn’t think that one through.” Her mother couldn’t believe it was the first time she’d heard this story and the rest of us were laughing so hard I’m sure we scared some of the tour-goers away. And you know I’ve never felt the same about ladybugs since the Great Infestation of ’92, when I vacuumed them off of our curtains by the hundreds every day for two weeks. Stupid ladybugs. You’d better fly away home.

Go Wildcats! Win one for the SEC!!!

The Coffee with Cathy Guide to Everything — Identity Crisis

Having an identity crisis doesn’t seem to be in style anymore. You don’t hear much about it. We don’t pull it out as an excuse —  “Oh, I’m sorry I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning yesterday. I’m having an identity crisis.” — like we used to. And that’s a shame. It sure was a handy shortcut for “I’m just not feeling your Bakery goodiesunreasonable demands right now because I’m questioning the whole meaningless existence of life so just back off. Also, my espresso machine broke.” I guess “identity crisis” has been replaced with “identity theft,” which not only is a frustrating and unwelcome tangle of legal problems but leads to further existential wanderings that require more than a perfect macchiato to fix. Which you can’t buy because some criminal jerk has stolen your identity and rendered your spending capabilities useless. On the other hand, sometimes people simply don’t get your name right. I’ve dealt with this for years. IdentityMy name is one of those that’s easily mis-written: “Kathy” and “Woods” are what I usually get. I’m used to that. I don’t take it personally. And even when folks call me by my former last name — that of my ex-husband’s — I can handle it. (Although my now-husband vehemently objects to people ascribing that name to him.) Even when people call me “Mrs. Pitts,” giving me my husband’s last name which I never changed to, I’m cool. But when I get letters to all three versions of me — or, because I personally am so important to this company, “Current Resident” — it sort of makes you stop and think. And I have no idea who “Cassie Woods” is, although she sounds like someone who is small and elvish and has long curly hair and knows the difference between a pansy and a peony. That person is not me, but the bakery guy who took my phone order for pick-up apparently thought it was. Nice try, bakery guy. Actually, I think he’s on to something: “Hello, XYZ Bakery? I’ll take a half-pound of wild-yeast sourdough, sliced; two almond croissants and a new name, please. I can pick up in an hour.” It’s a whole new business model.