Bugs and Bones

My laptop suddenly developed an annoying quirk of not letting me do anything until I’d signed up for some sort of anti-virus, anti-spam, pro-we’re-holding-your-computer-hostage-until-you-fork-over-$39.99 bug so I ran it over to my favorite computer folks for an emergency bug-dectomy. Luckily, Younger Daughter is Dayton, Ohio, for a competition  with the high-school percussion group she’s working with, so I’m borrowing her laptop, which she totally would let me do if she were here to ask. And of course there’s always the clunky old desktop, too. Remember back in the old days when the desktop was the only computer in the house and you had to sit right in front of where it was to use it???

Older Daughter’s had to sit down to do everything lately since she sprained/broke her ankle in spectacular fashion by falling in a hole their dog had dug in their backyard and has been hobbling around with a splint and crutches. But it’s not her fault, poor baby. Read my weekly newspaper column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100416/ARTICLES/4165005 to find out who’s to blame.

Shopping — and Baseball

The big news in my northwest Alabama town this weekend — besides people having to cover up their pansies and azaleas for the Final Freeze — is that three chain stores are moving in to a deserted shopping center that recently housed Goody’s (a Southeast clothing company gone bankrupt) and a Toys “R” Us and Old Navy that apparently we couldn’t keep in business.  My town also has killed a Pier One, Michael’s, Stein Mart and IHOP — who puts an IHOP out of business??? — and, then of course there was our Linens ‘n’ Things, which wasn’t our fault because nobody could save those stores. But now I have mixed feelings about Ross Dress for Less, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft and Bed Bath & Beyond coming here. On one hand, it’ll bring much-needed jobs and taxes — and those are good things. On the other hand, we can’t keep the small hometown stores in business, either: I still mourn the loss of the restaurant-supply store my friend’s family owned and the gourmet kitchen shop parents of Younger Daughter’s friend had that couldn’t compete with the big-box mass-discounters. And our local family-owned and -operated string of three fabric stores is now down to one — and it specializes in home-decor sewing instead of handmade-clothing sewing. I’m just not sure what I think. Somebody tell me what to think. And is Ross Dress for Less anything like the shining star of discount style — T.J. Maxx? I’ve been in maybe one Ross Dress for Less – do we have to say the whole name or is “Ross” sufficient? – maybe one time so I’d love some guidance.

But there is one thing I’m certain of: I’m not a baseball fan. And not because of the reasons you might think. The truth is that I’m actually sort of afraid of baseball. I know, I know — weird, right? Read my weekly newspaper column to find out why — and to find out who the one person is I overcame my baseball fear for. You know who! http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100409/ARTICLES/4095005

Spring Cleaning

Okay, Easter’s over, and if you didn’t get your spring cleaning done already, don’t panic. There’s still time. Step No. 1? Declutter! Get all that junk out of your house. I promise that you’ll feel as if you put your house on a diet — it will feel that much lighter and sleeker. And the best way to declutter? A yard sale. Look, it’s win-win. You clean house, you make some money, you help the economy by offering folks some bargains and you further the cause of reduce-reuse-recycle. What’s not to like? Oh, yes: The hard and boring work of putting a yard sale together. But you’re in luck, because I talked to some yard-sale veterans who passed along some no-fail yard-sale tips for a newspaper article I wrote on how to have a successful yard sale. Read it at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100402/ARTICLES/4025007 and get ready to have the best yard-sale ever.

And while you’re at the TimesDaily Web site, read my weekly column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100402/ARTICLES/4025004, where you’ll discover the question that goes with this answer: “If your veins showing through the rip are as dark as the denim.” I promise you, this is fashion advice you will not get in Vogue.

Learning

The thing about hanging out with other people is that you can learn from them. And learning is good — something about keeping your brain cells strong, I think. Take, for instance, this arrangement of seashells and dried grasses. A friend of mine who loves to collect shells at the beach put some of her best ones in this clear large-mouthed glass vase and used the shells to anchor a couple of bunches of grass she bought at a craft store. Result? Simple, easy and inexpensive with a definite wow factor. She just sort of threw this together while I sat and watched, amazed. The main requirement is a clear vase or container that’s wide enough for your shells. And if you don’t have any shells, you can buy them in bulk at most craft stores — although I bet you’ve got a forgotten box of them tucked away in the garage from your most recent vacation when you found these lovely shells on the beach and dragged them home because you knew you could do something with them. Well, you were right! See, you can learn tons of things from your favorite people. Such as my 23-month-old grandson, Capt. Adorable. Every day I spend with him is a learning experience — from repurposing toy boxes into comfy reading chairs to innovative uses for mashed potatoes (clay, glue, finger paint, hair gel). Read more lessons the Captain has taught me in my weekly newspaper column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100305/ARTICLES/3055005.

Olympics

I got a new gig this weekend — I got to write a sports column for the Tupelo newspaper, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal! Yes, you are right that I know nothing about sports whatsoever. But I do know the sports editor — my husband, John Pitts — and he wanted to have something about the Olympics from a civilian’s point-of-view. I am a huge Olympics fan and every two years — I still can’t get used to saying “two years” instead of “four years,” can you? — I get so caught up in the competitions and so wrapped up in the athletes’ stories that I’m definitely sort of morose when the torch goes out and it’s all over. So I wrote about that at http://nems360.com/view/full_story/6487694/article-CATHY-WOOD. Go read it and check out the stellar job my husband does and the great other columnists, especially my friend Ginna Parson’s food stories on Wednesdays — great recipes.

And this past Friday in my weekly newspaper column in the TimesDaily, I wrote about girlfriend getaways — how to organize one and why you should. Read it at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100226/ARTICLES/2265001/ and then gather up your best friends and go have some fun.

Breakfast

I’m like many of y’all — in that wonderful period when my kids are grown, my work-at-home freelance-writing hours are flexible and my night-owl husband sleeps late. This means I can — finally, after years of otherwise — enjoy an hour or so of uninterrupted peace and quiet with my morning coffee. No carpools to get ready for, no homework to finish up frantically, no wild I’ve-got-nothing-to-wear closet marathons. I love it! So on a recent morning when it seemed as if 10 people ended up in the kitchen all with Important Things To Do Right At This Very Minutes, it sort of threw me off. But we all got through it. Read more at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100122/ARTICLES/1225004 — and have a great weekend!

Football

Can you still hear the roar of cheering from Alabama as we look forward to celebrating a whole year of college football supremacy? Around here it’s always football season, whether talk focuses on recruits or practice sessions or the most recent game or the games that are coming up — which in this case is Sept. 4 at home against San Jose State with the first home SEC game on Oct. 2 against Florida. In fact, the release of the upcoming season’s schedule is eagerly awaited since nobody wants to schedule a wedding or anniversary party or other important event during an Alabama or Auburn home game — and if it’s during an away game, just be sure to have TVs handy. And since it’s all football all the time around here, I gave over my newspaper column this week to Dear Husband, a newspaper sports editor who still patiently explains to me the difference between fullbacks and linebackers. This week he’s answered questions I had about the Alabama v. Texas BCS championship game — with his own spin, of course. For example, when I asked why players jump on opposing players who are already down on the field and everybody ends up in a big pile, he said, “It’s a good chance to get off their feet for minute. Football is tiring.” Read it at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100115/ARTICLES/1155005 — and you’ll learn a bit more about football, too.

Etiquette — and Elvis

Etiquette rules have loosened up considerably since the days when women had to make sure they had a pair of white gloves handy when they went out, but good behaviour never goes out of style. I thought, anyway. Recently Younger Daughter and I were at a popular local lunch spot in Florence, Alabama, and put our purses on a table to save it while we stood in line to order — only to find our table stolen and the thieves brazenly offering to let us sit there if we wanted. Uh, ‘scuse me??? We declined to share and plotted revenge all through our salads — spilling water and dropping plates of food figured prominently. Arrrggghhhh! Then later that afternoon, I posted about it on Facebook and got tons of responses and advice, plus the suggestion to write my next newspaper column about it. So I did: http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100108/ARTICLES/1085027

Also, happy 75th birthday, Elvis! If anybody needs something to do this weekend, go to Tupelo, Mississippi, and pay homage to the king at his birthplace — http://tupelo.net/things-to-do/birthplace-elvis.asp. And there’s a party going on at http://www.elvis.com/graceland/calendar/elvis_birthday.asp

New Year’s Resolutions

Okay, y’all, here’s your chance to become famous — or infamous, maybe. When I was a staff writer at the TimesDaily newspaper in Florence, Alabama, I’d turn my New Year’s column over to readers every year and publish the funniest and most creative resolutions folks sent me. I didn’t do it this past year since I’m not working in the office anymore, but this year my dear husband pointed out that really that’s no excuse. So here you go: E-mail me at cathylwood@gmail.com with your best resolution for 2010 and you may see it in my Jan. 1 newspaper column. I need funny, witty, bright and creative — we all want to save the world and spend more time with our families and friends and adopt more stray puppies, so those don’t count. You can do better! And even though I need to know who you are and that you’re a real live legal non-scary person, you can have your name/location/identity published any way you want: “Mary Smith, Huntsville, Alabama” or “A gardener in San Diego” or “John Doe, writer and part-time cook in Seattle” or “Cathy’s friend and shopping co-conspirator” or whatever you want. So e-mail me your family-friendly G-rated resolution by Sunday, Dec. 27, include your true identity so I can reassure the paper that everybody’s cool and also include your identity the way you want it published. I may edit your resolution to fit the space but I promise not to drastically alter it. I cannot wait to see what you come up with!

Sports

University of Tennessee footballEven though my husband and I haven’t actually lived there for years, we still consider nearby Tennessee home. It’s where we grew up, it’s where we graduated from college, it’s where our daughters were born, it’s where family and friends are, it’s where we head back to whenever we can. And although I am not especially a University of Tennessee fan, I don’t wish them any particular ill will — we are not UT haters. That being said, when three of your football players get arrested for armed robbery, seems to me that drastic and immediate action is called for. Wouldn’t you think? However, hours after the arrest, UT is still “reviewing” the case. And I know that people who get arrested get due process and a presumption of innocence, but such a namby-pamby delay smacks of “let’s first figure out how badly the loss of these players will affect our football chances before we do anything drastic.” C’mon, people! Guns? Robbery? Hello??? Outta there. Immediately. That’s my .02, anyway. In his sports-editor blog at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://nems360.com/blog/3079620, my husband says it much better. Okay, I feel calmer now. Thank you for listening to me rant and rave. And if it turns out that the football players in question were safe and sound in their dorm rooms studying for finals instead of pulling guns and demanding money on convenience-store customers, I will apologize. Promise. In the meantime, help me solve another mystery — The Case of the Missing Bottle Opener — in my weekly newspaper column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20091113/ARTICLES/911135000. No ranting there.