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.

The Coffee with Cathy Guide to Everything — Overcoming Gift-Giving Envy

You know what I mean by “gift-giving envy,” right? It’s that forehead-slapping moment when you unwrap The Perfect Gift Picked Out Just For You and while you’re speechless at the insane appropriateness of it all (how did she know I’d looked at that scarf just yesterday???) you’re also inwardly wondering WHY CAN’T I EVER DO THAT and secretly dreading when it’s the giftor’s turn to unwrap your Wintry Forest-scented candle, limited edition. Or maybe this is just me. Because I have the extreme and completely undeserved good fortune to be surrounded by folks who always get it right. I don’t know how they do it. But there are clues: “I pay attention,” our community-theatre intern shrugged when I asked how she knew I needed the travel mug and Starbucks Via she gave me. “I loved it so I knew you would, too,” a friend said when she gave me the most adorable necklace ever. “I remembered that you really liked the last one,” a sister-in-law said when she gave me a local artist’s tabletop calendar. Hmmm … 

And since I can’t turn around and use these to dazzle folks in 2014, here are some more unexpected and fun ideas to delight YOUR special people in upcoming gift-giving opportunities:

  • DSCN2893Did you know you could buy assorted single earrings? I didn’t, until Younger Daughter gave me this ultra-cute collection. I wear an uneven number of earrings because … well … I’ve forgotten why I decided to do that originally but I’d like to think it’s my one Rebellion Against the Status Quo. Or something. Also, when it’s Grandbaby Time, I switch to studs. One experience of having your gold hoops yanked out of your ears by an adorable yet incredibly strong young child will do that to you. I love that these have various colors and textures. And that Younger Daughter knew I’d love it.
  • coffeebagDid you know there was such a thing as wood-roasted coffee? I never, in all of my coffee-drinking years, had heard of that. And I pretty much consider myself to be up on all things coffee. But Younger Brother knew there was a gap in my coffee knowledge, so he gave me a bag of Matt’s Wood-Roasted Organic Coffee, made in Maine. At Matt’s, organic coffee is small-batch roasted in a vintage Italian roaster fueled by wood from native and nearby forests. And it is sooo good. It’s subtle and rich and layered and smooth, just as the perfect cup of coffee should be. Order some. Now
  • Of course, I can drink my perfect wood-roasted coffee in the most perfect coffee personalized coffee mugmug ever. Older Daughter is one of those folks skilled at using online photo and printing sites to create ooh-and-ahh-worthy gifts everybody looks forward to. Her expertise in designing hard-cover photo scrapbooks is legendary (if only I could convince her that photos of my precious grandbabies PLAYING AND POSING ON RAILROAD TRACKS are unnecessary). And this year she outdid herself by adding a coffee mug. Just for me. It makes me smile every time I drink coffee out of it — and since Husband John Pitts probably is reading this, I won’t reveal how many times that is. But it’s enough to make me feel good all day. Even with the railroad tracks.
  • Our neighbors are awesomely wonderful. We look out for each other and bring in each other’s DSCN2895garbage cans and pick up the trash. And give good gifts. One neighbor gave us a gift card to one of our favorite downtown eating spots, which we used immediately on beer and guacamole. Another neighbor gave us a basket full of goodies, including these book ends. Book ends! I love the idea of book ends — things such as pretty stationery and statement-making key fobs that used to be staples of everyday life but now are special enough to be elevated to why-didn’t-I-think-of-that gifts. Also please note that this is John Pitts’ side of the bookshelves, used for photography purposes because his side is organized and neat while mine is overflowing and messy and so overloaded that the movable shelves actually do move — downwards — every few months or so.

So, here’s to 2014! May the gifts you give always be welcome and never donated to the Salvation Army store. (Please give money, instead. Because if the set of four white-swan plastic napkin rings terrifies you, do you really want to impose it on somebody else?)

All Things Pumpkin

Pumpkin Spice

It does exist! I’d heard rumors about sugar-free pumpkin spice syrup but had not spotted this rarely seen creation in all of my many meanderings through T.J. Maxx grocery aisles … until now. I found this lone bottle tucked away behind the vanilla and hazelnut flavors on the top shelf in the Tupelo store (which is one of my favorite T.J.s, with its smattering of good-zip-code designer finds and a truly breathtaking hair and skin-care section). Not sure if I had broken into someone’s pumpkin-spice stash or if it had inadvertently been pushed to the back, but I grabbed the pumpkin-spice and put it in my cart immediately, under the jealously watchful eyes of two other shoppers who were not as quick. Or fast. Or, perhaps, pumpkin-spice obsessed. Yeah, yeah, I know. I know that “pumpkin spice” is (brilliant) marketing and mostly has nothing to do with actual pumpkins. I know that Starbucks and other retailers have wiggled their way into my head and made me lust after cozy & rustic & warming pumpkin stuff I didn’t even know I wanted. (Candles! Lotions! Pringles!) I know that no actual real pumpkins are harmed in the making of almost everything claiming a connection to our favorite orange squash. And yet. Here I am drinking pumpkin spice coffee and eating a pumpkin spice muffin with pumpkin butter, thinking about lunch with pumpkin beer to go with pumpkin salsa and pumpkin-seed crackers. I may need an intervention. But could you wait until Christmas, please? I’ve got a bunch of pumpkin soup leftover in the fridge.

Paint by the Letters

Corinth, Miss.

All you need to know about my town of Corinth, Miss., is right here on the top shelf of our local paint store, where, by the way, the staff spent almost half an hour carefully blending and matching paint for our bathroom. The young man helping me found our house colors in the battered metal card-catalog files lining one wall — they were listed under our address, which he knew as soon as I told him the name of the builder. I’d never seen anybody blend and match paint before — fascinating! He mixed proportions of shades identified by letters, spread a bit of the result on the color card of the original, dried it with an ancient-looking hair dryer and then studied it carefully, bringing in his co-worker to discuss the merits of “maybe a little more C?” or “there’s too much B in that.” Finally he was satisfied and charged me less than a typical Starbucks trip (because who can resist a Peppermint Brownie Cake Pop, Frosted Snowperson Cookie and a way-cute coffee mug along with a triple venti latte?). While the guys were working, I turned down their offer of water or coffee, talked to the store’s resident dog and imagined I was picking paint colors for our dream home. (I especially liked Ralph Lauren‘s River Rock finishes and double-especially liked the Swamp Willow color entirely due to the fun factor of saying “Oh, that’s Swamp Willow” whenever anybody might compliment our paint choice.) I also eavesdropped on accidentally overheard some excellent gossip about the cousin of the sister of the pastor of the attorney who’d taken somebody’s son-in-law’s divorce case. If there’s a local family-run paint store in your town, go hang out there. And buy some paint.

Movie Food, or Why I Should Get Out More

This is what happens when you live in a small town and you don’t go to the movies very often: You are amazed at the new Coke machine in the Malco lobby, with its touch screen and ever-changing video display with enticing buy-Coke-products ads. And then there’s the adjacent candy vending-machine, perfect for creating your own movie-watching snacks. My movie-lobby dream machine? One from Starbucks that lets you brew and enjoy your favorite espresso or coffee drink — or at least get a chilled DoubleShot.

Shopping Is Fun! That Is, if You Go with the Right Person

This photo was taken about eight minutes after the store opened, and three minutes after this corner was full of shoppers plopping bargain-priced boxed Christmas trees in their carts. They then moved on to the tool aisles, while we stayed and picked out poinsettias and evergreen wreaths in relative peace and quiet.

I like shopping. I like bargains. But I also like sleep, which I guess is why I’ve never done Black Friday. That, and as a newspaper reporter I always worked the day after Thanksgiving (& was damn lucky to get Thanksgiving off) and simply couldn’t manage both power shopping and deadline writing in the same day. But now that I live the financially challenging free & flexible life of a freelance writer, I can get up at 2 a.m. and hunt those door-busting deals with enthusiasm. And with Older Daughter, who talked me into going with her this year for my first Black Friday experience. “It’ll be fun,” she said. “It’s relaxing. Really.” Given all the scary stories I’d seen through the years, I was skeptical, but this is the young woman who has produced two of the Cutest Grandbabies Ever in the History of the World, so I figured she knew what she was talking about. Turns out she was correct:  Black Friday shopping — the way she does it, at least — is fun and stress-free. Her secrets? First, she researches and prepares by studying all the newspaper circulars. She knows which stores she’ll go to to buy specific items and which stories she’ll go to merely to browse. From her years of experience (she has stood outside in freezing sleet and spent hours in barely crawling checkout lines), she knows which stores to avoid when and which stores are worth  some discomfort and crowding. Second, she also knows in which stores you’ll find the most helpful and best-trained Black Friday staff (Home Depot excels at this) and in which stores you’re pretty much on your own because the yawning uninterested employees couldn’t care less. She knows how to ask about truck arrivals and restocking times and “do you maybe have any of these in the back?” She knows to grab anything you’re interested in while you ponder and discuss the competing merits of a Rock Star Mickey versus a Let’s Rock! Elmo — and she knows to put the rejects back where they belong so others can ponder them, too. Third, she has a great attitude and never gets upset or tense, even when the last pair of size 8 Tom’s Chocolate Canvas Women’s Classic at 25 percent off is gone before she can get to it. She simply switches gears and goes for the Brown Metallic Woven Women’s Cordones instead. No problem. She also approves of frequent treats, so she had me at “And as soon as Starbucks opens and if we’re doing well at that point …” Plus, she was also correct that being out in the pre-dawn hours with other for-the-most-part good-natured shoppers is sort of fun. On the other hand, it probably has a lot to do with who you’re with. Thanks, sweetie, for including me in your annual holiday shopping kickoff. I’ve already started saving up for next year.

Caffeine and Cash

At first I was so pleased that my husband and I got these offers in the mail. I mean, it’s a free $5-purchase at Starbucks. Thank you, Our Bank, for such a nice surprise. Y’all rock. However, on a closer read, I quickly became less happy. For instance, to receive the gift card, you have to use your debit card as a credit card, which I rarely do. And it naturally makes me suspicious — why is Our Bank pushing the credit-card angle? Obviously something’s in it for Our Bank and to distract us from asking questions, Our Bank is dangling a coffee-flavored carrot in front of us. Hmm … Also, note that these two cards require two different numbers of purchases to receive the gift card. The one for my husband, who maybe has used his debit card at a Starbucks perhaps twice ever, says “20 purchases” and the one for me, who knows every Starbucks employee in three states, says “33 purchases.” Thirty-three? Really, 33??? I’d love to see the calculations that came up with that number. And, finally, there is probably only one Starbucks near any of Our Bank’s locations, not to mention the fact that Our Bank markets itself as a hometown homegrown business — the sort of opposite of Starbucks. I wonder how well these Starbucks offers have gone over with Our Bank’s customers. Not great, I’m betting, although coffee and money are two essentials in my life.

And now for something completely different. Have you ever wondered what really happens on the other side of Friday-night lights? I’m talking about the center of high-school football: Sports desks at local newspapers. Read my weekly newspaper column to get an inside glimpse of the sprints, the tackles and the fumbles involved in getting info from dozens of games to press in the space of about a couple of hours. And you thought play-offs were stressful!