Tuesday, May 27, 2008

They lost Joyce

“Oh, Lord, we’ve lost Joyce.”

That was all Momma could say after the airline lost the ashes of her aunt at O’Hare Airport in Chicago.

I’m getting ahead of myself, so I’ll back up.

Monday morning, I logged a marathon three-way call with Momma and my sister, Deana. It was Memorial Day, and this was one of the few holidays I was unable to spend with my family. We made up for it on the phone discussing Sexton family happenings.

During the course of the call, the three of us got tickled over Momma’s trip to Oregon to retrieve the ashes of her aunt.

You see, to get to Grants Pass, Ore., from Memphis International Airport, one has to fly to Chicago, then to Seattle, then to Eugene. Last, a little crop duster plane travels from Eugene to Grants Pass. Needless to say, Momma and my Aunt Pat were near delireus when they finally arrived in Chicago on the return trip.

After shuttling across the terminal to meet their connection, they discovered the plane had been long gone – with the Aunt Joyce’s ashes on board.

A hysterical Momma called home with the news expecting some support, advice and even sympathy. Instead, Daddy asked the same question most people would ask.
“You checked Joyce?”

Momma let loose on a tirade about the airline charging them for an additional seat to carry the ashes and about this happening all the time – one family lost their father whose body was shipped in the casket. (Casket, hanging bag. Hanging bag, casket. I can see how that could happen.)

Still, Daddy was completely perplexed at the reasoning – “You checked Joyce?”

It took several weeks before urn was finally found. Happily, it was and a proper burial was given.

It is a trait in our family to get tickled at the most inappropriate times. More than once, Momma and I have gotten tickled in the middle of the Sunday sermon or special music, and we made enough of a spectacle that we received Daddy’s signature raised eyebrow glare.

Momma said as soon as she and Aunt Pat discovered they had lost Aunt Joyce’s ashes, they broke into hysterical laughing. I am sure it was at that point they thought, “What part of this did we think was a good idea.”

Friday, May 23, 2008

Becoming a cat's human

A cat has joined my menagerie of pets, and she has quickly developed her own personality and, may I say, attitude.

Deadline wandered up to the Winona Times offices one Tuesday night as the staff and I worked late to make deadline for that week’s paper. The name fit perfectly for this very persistent feline.

The entire evening, Deadline waited at the front door – meowing and howling to get our attention. If we went outside to appease her, she would aggressively try to get into the building, and then howl and meow when we did not let her inside.

The next morning, she was still waiting at the front door. Then I fed her, and she was officially mine.

Afraid of what would happen to her if she wandered into Summit Street, I took her home. I created a comfortable living environment for her in my storage room with old bed pillows and blankets, and occasionally, I allow her to come into the kitchen for a few minutes. I am somewhat allergic to cats, and prolonged exposure to their dander tends to make my eyes swell shut (not a good look for me).

Recently, she has decided she would like to live inside the house, and she is once again being very persistent and annoying with her decision. We fight on a daily basis. She comes in, stretches out on the sofa, and glares at me in defiance.

When I tell her “out,” I get a firm, growling meow. When I pick her up to put her out myself, she all but grabs hold of the door frame with her paws.

Cats are odd little things, and I admit I have never caught the cat person’s devotion. Personally, I think cats are too smart to be pets. They are moody, set in their ways, and refuse to follow instruction. Let’s face it – cats are nearly impossible to train.

Several years ago, I visited the Southaven Animal Shelter to adopt the largest cat in the facility. The night before, I was sitting on my sofa watching television, and a rat ran across the floor, stopped, gave me a smug look, and continued on his way. I truly believe that vile, plague-carrying creature smiled at me.

Of course, my family thought I was exaggerating, but unless that rat was wearing white gloves and lived in a castle in Florida, I did not want him for a roommate.

At the shelter, I found a not-so-lean-mean-fighting-machine in a grey, tiger-stripped male cat with an enormous, fat belly and a tiny little head. I named him Ignatius J. Sexton after a character from my favorite book, Confederacy of Dunces.

Ignatius was a strange creature. He would escape from the yard (he was too fat to climb) and prowl the neighborhood in search of food. He would go door to door, and all of my retired neighbors would feed him chicken skins, cans of tuna, and leftovers from the fridge. I was even scolded by my neighbor that Ignatius was starving to death.

His once-enormous belly became colossal, and it would actually sway from side to side as he walked. He looked like a bowling pen when he sat – with his tiny head and enormous belly, and he towered over my dogs in height and weight (around 30 pounds).

He refused to use a litter box and chose to go outside with the dogs. He even licked people like he was a dog.

Ignatius hated my mother, and I am sure it was mutual. He would glare at her and flick his tail in disgust until she left the house.

Once she was babysitting the critters, and Ignatius propped his fat fanny on Momma’s head during the night. It took me a long time to ask her to baby-sit again.

My point is cats are unpredictable. They are stubborn, arrogant, and elitist. Sometimes I get the feeling that they think they are smarter than their human. I know Ignatius did, and I suspect from the cussing I get from Deadline about sleeping in her own room, she does as well.

My question is now that the cat has chosen me as her human, how do I show her I’m the boss? Can you hear me, Cat Whisperer?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

100 Totally Facinating Things About Me

1. My middle name is Gaye.
2. I was named for my daddy’s oldest sister, Sybil Gaye, and Miss Kitty off Gunsmoke, Amanda Blake.
3. Daddy said he always had a thing for Miss Kitty.
4. I am the youngest of three girls.
5. Until I was nearly a teenager, I thought I was not my parent’s child.
6. I thought my uncle was actually my father, and because he was an idiot, my parents took me in.
7. It makes me cringe when my mother tells me I remind her of him.
8. I had a pony named Tiny Boot when I was a child.
9. When I was little I had reoccurring nightmares about the ground opening up, falling in the crack while riding Tiny Boot, the hole filling up with water and drowning.
10. No I am not in therapy.
11. My first friend my same age was named Scooter Cooper.
12. We once had a joint birthday party at McDonald’s.
13. My favorite color to wear is green. My favorite color is pink.
14. I have one eye that is half blue and half green.
15. Until I was around 7, my eyes were blue. Now they are green.
16. My favorite show growing up was Tom and Jerry.
17. I used to cry when it would end.
18. I hate Roadrunner. It was the worst cartoon ever.
19. I never understood why Popeye would want to date Olive Oil in the first place.
20. After seeing Friday the 13th part III, I was scared to go into the hay loft of the barn.
21. I still am.
22. My best friend since we were seven is Heather.
23. We went to elementary, high school, and college together.
24. We have never lived together, not even in the dorm.
25. That is the reason we are still friends.
26. My favorite book growing up was James and the Giant Peach.
27. My fourth grade teacher read it to us.
28. She also made me love butterflies.
29. I can now tell the difference between a Hawkeye and a Monarch butterfly.
30. I have never been a lover of science, but I did graduate high school with a 100 average in Anatomy and Physiology.
31. Chemistry – not so much.
32. My favorite teacher ever was Bill Ferris.
33. He is now the director of the Humanities in Washington, D.C.
34. I majored in English and Southern Studies.
35. I actually wanted to be an interior decorator, but my father would not have it.
36. I took one class in journalism in college.
37. My professor told me I would never be a journalist, and I needed to transfer into creative writing.
38. I am now a journalist with an English degree.
39. My favorite book of all time is Confederacy of Dunces.
40. I named my cat after the main character – Ignatius J. Riley.
41. The one character I fell in love with immediately – Gilbert Blyth from Anne of Green Gables.
42. I started to hate Anne for being mean to him.
43. The other – Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre.
44. I hate Charles Dickens. Anything by Charles Dickens.
45. A writer I would love to emulate: Dorothy Parker.
46. Writer I would love to have lunch with: Dan Brown
47. My first published piece of writing was in my high school newspaper – The Immaculata.
48. I wrote Madame Amanda’s horoscopes.
49. Seriously.
50. I went to an all-girl Catholic school.
51. I had to wear saddle oxfords until I was 18 years old.
52. My favorite foods are Momma’s fried chicken and sushi.
53. My least favorite foods – beets, hummus (that is so not food), and rice pudding.
54. My favorite television show: Monk.
55. I don’t feel so bad about my OCD if I watch Monk.
56. Second favorite television show: Psych.
57. If you grew up in the 80’s you will love Psych. Tons of 80’s references.
58. Favorite movie: Color Purple. I can quote the entire movie.
59. Worst movie ever: The Interpreter
60. I am actually kind of shy. Crowds of people scare me to death.
61. I am petrified of heights. Sometimes I think I might freak out and jump. Other times, I think I will trip and fall to my death.
62. And germs.
63. And bad smells.
64. And bugs.
65. All kinds of bugs, but especially chiggers because the get into your skin.
66. Skin diseases freak me out. I would rather have the flu than a rash.
67. I’m itching now.
68. I have always had a tremendous urge to confess – everything.
69. I feel so guilty; I believe I have to get forgiveness.
70. My favorite toy growing up: Career Woman Barbie with her pink suit and pink and white pumps.
71. When I played with Barbie, I would make Barbie go off to the office, and make Ken stay at home and cook.
72. Ken sucked. Hated Ken.
73. My significant other’s name is Keith.
74. Our first kiss was in the middle of a corn field.
75. We will be dating for three years in June.
76. Keith makes the best stuffed pork chop in the world.
77. He also made me like to eat venison.
78. Keith is so much better then Ken.
79. Favorite flower: I have two – the iris and the sterling rose
80. Favorite scent: honeysuckle
81. Favorite dessert: hot chocolate chip cookies
82. Favorite ice cream: Homemade vanilla by Bluebell
83. I am addicted to nose spray and have been for like 10 years.
84. I only use it before bed.
85. When my nose is stopped up, I feel like I’m drowning and wig out.
86. I have a serious phobia about my bed. The idea of strangers sleeping in my bed will send me over the edge.
87. I hate professional massages.
88. Every time I get a professional massage, I come out bruised and looking like some sort of victim.
89. I like facials.
90. My favorite song of all time is “Oh, Sweet Carolina” by Ryan Adams.
91. It has really great harmony.
92. My favorite musicians are Patti Griffin and Lori McKenna.
93. I love folk music (especially acoustic guitar) and classical piano solos (that is what I write to).
94. I bought my dogs a sofa.
95. Seriously.
96. I have two dogs and a cat.
97. The cat lives outside.
98. Her name is Deadline.
99. She is the ugliest cat I have ever seen.
100. She is definitely not as pretty as my dogs.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Keetha's Rebuttal

Check out Keetha's rebuttal for her avid love of "festivaling."


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Cucumber sandwiches and mint juleps: The joys of entertaining Southern

Being Southern isn’t just a geographic location. It is a culture with its own language, habits, rules, and interaction with other humans. In regards to that interaction, we love to gather in large groups, eat ourselves silly, exchange old stories, and bask in our Southern-ness.

Like most Southern women, I love to entertain. I guess I spent too much time throwing tea parties as a child, but nothing is more wonderful than setting a beautiful table, organizing a gourmet menu, and mingling through rooms of guests.

My parents have always entertained – Daddy’s business acquaintances, family, the pastor. I attended my first dinner party before I was five-years-old. My parents wanted to teach us how to behave in social situations, and of course, we had a learning curve.

Momma and Daddy:

As a toddler, my sister, Stephanie, pulled her potty chair into the dining room for her “way to go’s.” This was just as the main course was being served.

At around three-years-old, my oldest sister, Deana, who learned to talk in the womb, smacked the pastor for not acknowledging her when she greeted him. “Hi,” she said. He continued with his adult conversation. “I said ‘hi,’” she insisted. He ignored her. “I said ‘hi,’” she shouted as she hauled off and popped him.

As for me, my parents could not make me understand that I had to keep my dress on – I would strip down and streak through the house. They also had the problem of me pulling my skirt up over my head and showing off all my business during children’s church, but that is another story.
Regardless, I love to entertain. Case in point, the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby was held Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, but the traditions and Southern charm of the Derby could be felt all the way to Winona.

The first annual Ferguson-Mosley-Reed-Sexton Kentucky Derby party (my co-hosts – Keith, Keetha, and Jeffrey) was held at my home on Saturday evening, and trust me (after hours of cleaning silver), we did not haphazardly throw some chips in a bowl and watch the race on television. We hoped to bring Churchill Downs to the heart of Winona, and I personally think we were pretty successful in our goal.

My Co-Hosts, Keetha and Jeffery:
And my sweetie, Keith, and me:
The menu: Cucumber sandwiches, Miss Annie Mae Wilson’s famous cheese straws, Derby tarts, pork loin on rolls with horse-get it?-radish sauce, strawberry trifle, white glove soufflĂ©, baked brie with honey and apples, and strawberries and cream.

Yes, the food was fantastic, but the guests were even more wonderful in their hats and spring wardrobes. We even had a gentleman don seersucker pants and a linen shirt (Daddy said he reminded him of Jody Varner in Long Hot Summer with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.)
And the hats! I wish people wore hats these days! The winner of our hat contest went to Winona’s Jane Downard who sported a Victorian veiled number with plumed feathers and a Minnie Pearl price tag. Lydia Chassaniol came in second for the most creative hat featuring a foam bird and other handmade adornments. Nell Middleton was definitely wearing the prettiest hat with its hydrangeas.
The hats:

All I can say is I am giddy with anticipation for next year’s get-together.

Would you go to the Mullet Festival?

My friends, Keetha and Jeffrey, are festival junkies. So far this year, they have attended the Oxford Film Festival, the Italian Fest, the World Catfish Festival, and the Crosstie Festival. That, folks, is four weekends at some sort of festival – definite dedication to “festivaling.”

Recently, I have pondered Mississippi’s plethora of festivals and picked out a few favorites.

Gautier Mullet Festival: Named for ray-finned fish that live in the gulf.

For those who have no knowledge of fish (like myself), I thought this was a celebration of the most infamous hairstyle ever. I, of course, checked to see if famous mullet-sporters would be in attendance – Billy Ray Cyrus, every member of the band Alabama, Andre Agassi in his younger days.

I was wrong and seriously disappointed.

Wizard of Oz Festival: This festival is in Lucedale. My question: why?

Slugburger Festival: A slugburger is a deep-fried patty made of a beef mixture and soybean grits. I had a friend who went to this festival. When asked what a slugburger was like, he only had one word to describe it: “chewy.”

This makes me think of a giant food fight for some reason.

Wing Dang Doodle Festival: Forest’s celebration of “chicken and the blues.” What a great name! I don’t know how much one can celebrate poultry, but I am willing to try just to get a t-shirt.

Migration Discovery Festival: This is another festival in Gautier. The name sounds like a documentary on the Learning Channel. I would definitely not care for a t-shirt.
Johnny Cash Flower Pickin' Festival: There is a great story behind this Starkville festival. While in Starkville for a concert, a very intoxicated Johnny Cash woke and decided to go pick flowers in the middle of the night – naked. He was arrested and spent the night in the Starkville City Jail.

Today, festivals honoring celebrity stupidity might be called Third Stint in Rehab Festival or the Quickie Vegas Wedding Festival. It just doesn’t have the same ring, huh?

Recently, I have come up with a few of my own festivals to truly celebrate the culture and quirks of Mississippi.

* Gravel Road Festival: A celebration of shocks.

* Disgusting Food Festival: A celebration of chitterlin’, frog legs, cracklin’, and boiled okra (slimy!).

* Gumbo Mud Festival: The slogan can be: “Better than Super Glue. It ain’t ever coming off.”

* House Fly Infestation Festival: Self-explanatory. Also, that plastic bag of water with a penny inside hanging over the doorway so does not work.

* Squashed Bug Coated Windshield Festival: Take a trip from Cleveland to Vicksburg, and then try to connect the dots.

* Festival of Festivals: A festival celebrating festivals in Mississippi. Exactly how many times can a face be painted?

Seriously, I love being a Mississippian. Where else will entire communities celebrate a watermelon, the juke joint, or the sweet gum tree? Relish in your individualism, Mississippi, and keep appreciating the little things that make a life in our fair state rich.