Scrub-a-dub-dub

We worked in the backyard and on the deck this past weekend. Man, there is nothing like having friends over to inspire a little scrub-a-dub-dubbing. We want to put our best foot forward, don’t we? Or at least not have our friends concerned about whether they should call the DEQ about our living conditions, right? You can bet if your friends have to ask for a garbage bag to sit on their chair, they’re probably not coming back for dinner anytime soon.

So we set about sprucing up — raking and planting, planting & raking. Here a mulch, there a mulch, everywhere a mulch-mulch. I will say, for all of my gardening woes, there is a little bit of an adrenaline boost that comes from potting a few flowers, planting tomatoes (for Jimmy) and peppers, trimming the rosebushes and such. It appeals to our love for instant gratification… you know, going from drab to fab in a weekend.


Now, from the plants’ perspective, if they had feelings, ending up at my house would feel sort of like being sentenced to death row. They know the end is coming — the sun beating down on them in the middle of July, kind of like that chain gang scene from O Brother, Where Art Thou — just withering in the heat of a Mississippi summer. The lantanas might be drought-tolerant enough to tough it out, but I’ve given up on ferns and petunias… they can’t hang.

For many years after we moved into our house, we went through an annual exercise in gardening futility. My mother in law had a knack for plants, and she loved them. She loved the instant gratification, and all of the bright blooms and the different varieties – and so on. She’d drop by for a visit at some point in the spring and sigh wistfully at our empty front porch. It runs the length of the front of our house and seems to beg for hanging baskets with Boston ferns to decorate the spaces between the columns. She’d trot off to the garden center, returning with ferns for the porch and petunias for the flower bed – an Easter “happy” is what she’d call it. It seemed like a misnomer to me, but I went along with it. She’d hang them and stand back, proudly admiring the scene, asking if I liked them. And I did, I really did. But I knew what was coming. My relationship with the ferns every year started out all warm & fuzzy in April & May, me with my watering wand, and them drinking it in. Very kumbaya-ish. Then… July. Duhn-duhn-duhn. Suddenly it felt very adversarial, like a Jackie Chan movie.

Before I knew it, I had a fight to the death on my hands. It seemed that no matter what, I was destined to kill both the ferns and the petunias. It was only a matter of time before Jimmy’s mom dropped by and shook her head at me, with a “bless your heart” in her eyes. Everybody who’s ever lived in the South knows that look, and they know that “bless your heart” isn’t the sweet pat on the arm you at first think it is. And so I’d take the botanical walk of shame, carrying the brown, leafless baskets with fern stems more scraggly than a bad home perm. I’d tote them out to the curb for their final ride in the big green garbage truck, headed to the great compost pile in the sky, admitting another summer of defeat.

Oops – I got caught up in my sidebar there. Sorry.

Back to my pretty spring fresh deck… and the scrub-a-dub-dubbing. It was genuinely satisfying to sit down for a moment late in the afternoon, with the sun starting to set and us looking around at our handiwork — the fresh pots of marigolds, mosquito plants and lantanas scattered around in pretty pots, with my little herb garden and pepper plants freshly watered and ready to get busy growing. Maybe this is the year they make it all the way through the summer. Hope blooms anew, right?

Whaddup, little herbies?


We finished up and headed inside. I stood at the kitchen sink, scrubbing the dirt from under my fingernails as I looked out the window at the freshly scrubbed deck. It was stubborn, not rinsing away easily. I grabbed the dishwashing sponge, and with the scrubby side, I went to work in the crevices and around my cuticles. It took some elbow grease to come clean. Which brings me to my “bit” for today. The elbow grease, the effort – it’s hard work sometimes, but man, is it worth it. It’s evidence of the labor, how making something beautiful (of yourself, or in your yard) sometimes requires hard work and a lot of clean up afterwards. Whether my DIY project is on myself or in my yard, it’s sometimes messy – I have to be willing to get in there and get my hands dirty to make a difference. Those seasons of change are uncomfortable, and I often just want to get finished and get washed up. I want to tie things up in a neat little bow and be done. I don’t always get to choose though, and I get dirt under my nails occasionally. Thank goodness for literal and figurative scrubby-sided sponges. Yay.

Spring sprung!

I love this time of year! I mean, the first week of the time change is a KILLER, no argument there. The rest of the year, I usually spring out of bed pretty early… way before the alarm and before any of the other two or four-legged members of my family are ready for their feet to hit the floor.

That first week after the time change? The struggle is real. I’m barely functioning, with extra caffeine necessary to make the drive to work. Like, I wish for an extra hand so that I can double-fist a coffee and a diet soda and still have a hand for the steering wheel. YAAAAWWWWNNNN. And don’t kid yourself, I’m going to need a refill before my first meeting, just for good measure. It’s all fun & games until someone falls asleep at the conference table, am I right? I’m warning you now, one of your coworkers WILL take a picture of you asleep and post it on social media, Sleepy McSleeper.

There is a reward for that resetting of the internal clock though. It’s still DAYLIGHT when I drive home from work, which makes me giddy. I feel like I’ve gotten a bonus hour every evening, and I want to make it count! Who’s in for grilling? Want to tackle a box in the garage? (insert raised eyebrow and a “let’s don’t get crazy” look from spouse here)

Pollen aside, which can be really brutal in my part of the country, I love the bright green shoots on all of the trees and shrubs – everything coming alive. Oh, and the flowers! My own thumb is quite brown – really, really brown. It’s bad, y’all. But I have so much admiration for those who have that knack for plants, because I love the redbuds, and the dogwoods, and the azaleas! Oh my gosh, springtime is a feast for the eyes, which is a relief, because just looking at my now-yellow vehicle is enough to start an allergic waterfall puddling and running down my cheeks. As with everything, there is a flip side – a give & take. Get spectacular fuchsia pink azalea blooms or a stunning display of dogwood flowers — take the itchy, watery, runny eyes and nose for a few weeks. Hello, nose spray and decongestants! Welcome to our humble abode.

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Love these beauties!

 

I guess the ‘bit’ I always think of when spring finally springs – it’s the newness, the fresh start, the feeling of a “do over” where I need it. For those of you who did your New Year’s reflection and restart – press on, friends. For those of you who chucked the resolutions on Day Two? (it’s rhetorical… you don’t actually have to raise your hand if you had chocolate cake for breakfast on January 3rd… not that I know anything about that personally… heard it from “a friend”…) There’s still hope for us. We just have to take the first step. And the next step. And the next step. Now that we’ve made it past the first few weeks of the time change, we can do that, right?

Okay, so take a deep breath and pause for a second. Try not to suck in a mouthful of pollen while you’re doing it. Because here’s our opportunity for a fresh start. I had the pleasure of a little “windshield time” traveling for work last week. Part of my drive took me along a two-lane scenic parkway, with limited choices on the radio and even more spotty cell reception. I was glad for the quiet time to enjoy the beauty around me and start thinking about the places where I’d like to fine-tune – the places where I have impressive intentions, but haven’t knocked the ball out of the park yet. For you, it might be a reset on the personal budget, now that you’ve done your tax returns. Or maybe taking a class or a certification for work? Or even scheduling your vacation before you miss out? I’m talking to you, worker bee friend who ends up losing vacation time you haven’t taken.

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Springtime road show

 

Whatever it is, the time for a new bloom is right now! Branch out (pun intended – har-dee-har-har), and do what’s going to make you happy, or set you up for success down the road, or help you ditch the baggage you’re carrying around. You might even be able to cut back on the morning caffeine and still have a pep in your step. Maybe. Let’s don’t get crazy.

There’s no crying in baseball…

… or in business… or in life. I mean, there are times when it’s totally appropriate to shed a tear. The loss of a loved one, a heart-clutching hair band ballad from the 80’s or a tragic country song, a great movie ending – I get it. And like Truvy in Steel Magnolias, I sort of have an unwritten rule that no one cries alone in my presence. I may not have the answers, but I will almost always stand in solidarity, all teared up, when a loved one or friend is heartbroken or dealing with things that rock them to their core. I’ll offer a tissue (or a Shelton-esque hot beverage, for my fellow Big Bang Theory fans), and we’ll figure out together how to recover.

But I am my father’s daughter, so for myself, I’m more likely to keep my full-blown incoherent, grumbly pity parties under wraps if possible. Just like the hissy fits I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not a pretty crier when it all falls apart. It’s not a cute Reese Witherspoon/Legally Blonde kind of moment – more like something from The Exorcist. The crazy gets out sometimes, before I can tuck it back in. Apologies in advance – hide your children… I need a minute to bellyache.

And then? I want to get back on track. Walk it off. Rub some dirt on it. Stop the whining. It’s a coping mechanism, really. I think Jimmy thinks I’m a little bit of a weirdo when it comes to these situations. He’s ready to sit beside me and offer a shoulder to cry on, pat my leg and tell me it’s going to be okay. A great husband reaction, and bless him, that’s one of the things I love about him. But more often than not, I’d rather channel the frustration or pain into something useful. You know, more of a “suck it up, buttercup” kind of thing. I was going to say “beauty from ashes”, and there’s some of that in there too. But the buttercup and baseball are probably way more my style. Get on with it, onward & upward.

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Earlier this week, I saw one of those funny top 10 lists on social media – I think it was things grown-ups have learned or something silly like that. You know, the “life’s not fair” kind of rules you don’t learn in school. It was ironically set to soothing music in the background, as if to soften the blows of these hard knocks. It talked about how your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not, and how TV isn’t life because in life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to work. And do grown up things – like dealing with sadness and disappointments.

This text exchange between my dad and me this week sums it up.

Me: Deal didn’t go through. Moving to next option.

Dad: Gotcha! Wasn’t meant to be, I reckon.

Me: Yep. Exactly what I was thinking. Onward & upward. Still worth the effort for a lesson learned.

Now, if I had called in tears, without question, he would have listened and had some killer advice. And then he would have reminded me I’m not a quitter and told me it’s time to get back in there (wherever “there” is) and go at it again. And you know what? I’m grateful for that. I can so appreciate that it hasn’t always been easy for him, and he has always pressed on in spite of adversity. He taught me to do the same. He worked in mainframe computers, eventually running one of the top 3 largest data centers in our state – and did it all without a college degree. There’s no way he didn’t face naysayers, and probably had to run the old “fake it till you make it” game every once in a while. So if I muster up a little swagger about myself as I get back in there, all the better. Not cocky or entitled, but confident.

The disappointments, sadness and frustrations are always going to be there. I know I can’t always  control the things that happen, but I can always choose how I respond. In fact, that may be the ONLY thing I can control sometimes. So when I miss my cut-off man, or don’t get the recognition I was hoping for, or am facing uncertainty, it’s going to be okay. It’s ALWAYS going to work out in the long run, one way or another. Is it always going to go my way? Nope, it sure isn’t – I’m not always going to get the trophy. But there’s no crying in baseball. And I’m fine with that, coach.

Take What You Can Get

I often find myself at community events, expos and all kinds of fun events interacting with the public – sometimes through my work, sometimes it’s with one of the organizations where I volunteer. Maybe I’m just a spectator. Even as many times as I’ve gone to these events, and despite my saying I won’t be surprised at anything… I usually am. Sometimes, even when I think I’ve seen it all, I’m surprised by the mish-mash of people I see at these events. The people watching isn’t quite as good as what you find at an airport – that’s a blog post for another day soon – but it’s still pretty interesting, and one of the things I really get a kick out of. I love the observation almost as much as actually talking with people to hear their stories.

Depending on the event, you may have anything from moms and kids, business attendees picking up a stress ball, retirees replenishing their personal stashes of pens, note pads, key chains and such. There’s sometimes the student crowd who are there for extra points in some class AND to snag a power bank or car charger if they find one, assuming they haven’t been cleaned out by the previous groups. I really do appreciate when community members support these events – it sure makes the day more interesting.

As my grandfather said, it takes all kinds to make the world go ’round, and you can find a lot of those kinds at these community events. Depending on the purpose of the event, you might find fun costumes (our city does a completely delightful caterpillar parade to celebrate spring, and you are likely to find butterflies and all sorts of costumes… awesome), politicians stumping with speeches (GREAT people watching), people passing out the aforementioned goodies, and people “trick or treating” for said goodies – just there to take whatever they can get.

The takers/getters intrigue me; they may or may not even WANT the items they’re grabbing, but they snag whatever is available for the taking. My mind wanders as I’m watching this go down: is this what they do in other areas of their lives? Or are they giddy and caught up in the euphoria of the goodies? Perhaps they’ve discovered the answers to life’s great questions lie in a nifty stylus pen or a funeral home fan with just enough firmness to not flip & flop as they furiously wave it? I’ll grant you this from personal experience – at summer events across the Deep South, a good funeral home fan is the answer to at least one of life’s great questions…can I create enough of a breeze so that I don’t pass out of heat exhaustion before I get to my car and turn the A/C on MAX? (and the answer is just barely)

I guess the personal growth nugget for me here is that watching the “getters” is sort of a metaphor for life, in a weird way. They are so busy “getting” that they are never satisfied with what they got, because they’ve already moved on to the next “get.” There’s not time to enjoy the squishy stress ball because the next shiny object is already in view at the next booth. Oooooh, I need to get that pack of tomato seeds – check. Free bottle of water – check, and can I get an extra?

Sidebar: let me offer a little color on the tomato seeds. Anyone who knows me knows I LOATHE the mushy wretchedness of a tomato. Blech. So if I picked up your tomato seeds, I am 100% in “getter” mode… or I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses, and I totally think I picked up something else. Boy, am I going to be surprised when I get home – and NOT in a good way. My nose is wrinkled as I type this – just thinking about them grosses me out!

Okay, back to my bits, here. I hope I’m at least cultivating an attitude of contentment and gratitude along with those tomatoes. Otherwise, the frenzied hunting & gathering leaves no time to appreciate the fruits of the labor. It’s always about the next “get,” valuable or not. Sort of a twisted keeping score where whomever collects the most trinkets wins, even if sometimes they ultimately don’t.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I think drive and ambition are bad things. They’re not. I hope I achieve some measure of balance in the grand scheme of things. Because, when the “getting” is over and I’ve made it home with 2 bottles of water, a pack of tomato seeds and 3 notepads from the local banks and realtors, did I just take what was there to get? Or did I also take time to gather and get what I really needed from the day – which, honestly, often has more to do with the interesting people than their things.

One man’s trash

One of the people living at my house has been labeled a tosser… and one of us is definitely not a tosser, by any definition. It’s one of those point-counterpoint things, I guess. I mean, I don’t think the keeper has crossed into hoarder territory. Flirted with it, maybe. And let me just clear up any confusion on who’s who… I am not the keeper. Except for Jimmy. Definitely keeping him. The rest of the stuff? Totally negotiable. In fact, I sometimes look at all of the “goodies” we have hanging around, and it’s enough to make my eyes twitch. The stacks and piles and what-not… it treads all over my last nerve.

I mean, I guess it’s at least remotely possible we might someday need to walk the length of a room two feet off the ground and might, therefore, actually have a reason to simultaneously use all 8 step stools and ladders we’ve acquired over the years, all at one time. Maybe?

Or maybe we’ll just up and host a city-wide block party someday and need even that leaky cooler with the cracked top… don’t get rid of that!

I kid, mostly. You can take one look at our garage and tell that I don’t always win. Sing it with me now: Five garden rakes, four pop-up tents, three Christmas soldiers, two grandfather clocks… and a partridge in a pear tree (we don’t really have a partridge, or a pear tree, but hey, it fit). Some things are sentimental and we hang onto them because they were important to someone we love, like my mom’s senior yearbook or the flashlights and American flags Jimmy’s dad loved. All of them. All. Of. Them.

Then there is the group of things we’re keeping because they’re “still good.” Dear me, Mr. Beans! My theory: if the items in question are still good, let them go in peace & be good for someone else, somewhere else. If we replaced the doorknobs and switch plate covers in the house, we don’t need a spare set, do we? That’s not generally something where the average Joe keeps a spare. There’s no way that makes the Family Feud board of things people save “just in case.” And even if we do save them, will we remember where we put them? The answer is a solid no to all of that, by the way.

And while we’re at it, I don’t have the space or the patience to house the 10 pound container of Miracle-Gro from Y2K anymore. My un-green thumb adventures are near-legendary. I don’t need a giant bucket of fertilizer mocking me too.

Mind you, the purging bug doesn’t always strike me either.. For you keepers, I can see how it sometimes feels like way too many decisions, on top of all of the other decisions we have to make all day, for sure. What am I going to wear? What about my hair? And shoes? Who’s going to get the dogs to the vet to get their toenails trimmed? And what’s for supper?

Eeee-gads, as my Gram would say… the supper question. If we could have a supper fairy, I would be SUCH a happy camper. Actually, I don’t mind the cooking of the supper, it’s the decision… or rather, indecision. We do fine making big decisions all day long. And then we get home and have to decide on the last meal of the day. And that’s where we hit a wall.

So, apparently, what we really need is a supper DECIDING fairy. A darling little pixie to head off this fruitless conversation. Maybe instead of a Tinkerbell wand, she has a spinner app on her tiny little tablet, because otherwise, it sounds like this at our house:

What about a salad? Mehhh.

How about spaghetti? I don’t know…

Chicken on the grill? Nah, not feeling it.

Annnnnddd… we’re back to takeout.

With a side order of boxes still hanging around in the garage. You know, the dollar store holiday décor with an expiring statute of limitations – finally approaching the point where nobody remembers they’re from our first Christmas, when we didn’t care that Santa was a closeout. Well, dang – now *I’m* getting sentimental. Looks like that box gets to stay with us a little longer.

Some days you get the bear…

And some days the bear gets you, as my dad says. Actually his version is a little more colorful, but that’s not where we’re headed, so we’ll run with the hypothetical bear for now. At any rate, in spite of your best efforts, some days are just NOT your day. You are shooting to be strategic, and execute strongly, and lead with conviction, and deliver results, and make a difference. You gather the data, make the best decision based on the information at hand, and then, “BAM!” Here’s a whole new bunch of intel that sinks your battleship, to borrow a board game reference.

And you know what? It happens. Is it frustrating? Yes. Does it upset your applecart?  Yep. Can you throw a tantrum? Maybe in private, yes. At least for me, anyway. I’m generally not a big fan of fits in public – especially my own fits, because they’re just not very pretty. It’s not a good look on me, worse than horizontal stripes. Hissy fits aren’t necessarily a good look on anyone, really, but not everybody gets that, do they? We can all think of that certain someone we know who is an expert, in fact. “Oh, sweetie, your crazy is showing a little there… yep, rrrriiiight there… you’ll want to tuck that back in, dear.

Here’s the thing though – usually, the battleship blower-upper isn’t maliciously calling “B4.” It’s more often good intentions gone awry. You know what else? I do it too sometimes. I think I am rocking and rolling,  doing the right things, and then someone comes along and says I’ve sunk their battleship. Oops. Totally my bad. I’ll own it and apologize, even if it’s an accidental shelling. I don’t quite know how you spell that blowing up sound, but you know what I’m saying. Just nod like you get it. 

 

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Not sure I’d take this to battle, but you get the idea

 

The game box for Battleship used to say winning takes a combination of strategy and luck. Yikes. Strategy, I can handle. Think it through, look at your options versus your end goal, plot your course. As one of my sales colleagues says, “Make the plan and work the plan.” And he’s totally right. You break down the end goal and figure out how to succeed at each step, on the game board or in the game of life (yours, not Milton Bradley’s).

It’s the luck part that can derail in a heartbeat. Luck is not a strategy. I’ve heard that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. Sometimes it’s your opportunity, but sometimes you’re depending on someone else’s preparation meeting opportunity. I hope that the ones I’m depending on have made their plans and are working them accordingly. Ehhhhh – not always the case, I know.

If not? Sometimes it’s in my purview to offer advice on righting the ship, if you will. At work, for instance, when I’m working with my team, if I see us veering off course, I can speak up, make sure we’re doing the things we need to be doing to steer back on track. Then there are the other times. The times I find myself in the crossfire with a galvanized garbage can top for a shield, and a colander for a helmet. Those are definitely NOT toy-pedos coming at me. That’s going to leave a mark… on my forehead.

When that happens, I hope I set a good example for getting up to fight the good fight again. I don’t want to be the person wailing, “You sank my battleship!” (In my head I hear a “WAAAAH” behind it. You do too, now, don’t you?)

Instead, I want to be the person who owns the mistake and evaluates, then makes the corrections and goes at it again without giving up. Full steam ahead, determined that tomorrow IS going to be my day. Take that, you hypothetical bear. 

Pops of Color

I am a fan of color. I am not an all-white and neutrals kind of girl, not often prone to sticking with ‘burbs beige. I get into a palette of colors and am energized. I call  it inspiration, but my hubby calls it psychedelic… and overwhelming. Please don’t encourage him, by the way – he doesn’t need any help.

I tell people that we have never in our years together opened a paint can that there wasn’t at least a little gasp and a shaking of his head or rubbing his forehead. He looks at me the same way every time – that “you can’t be serious” look, usually followed with a conversation that starts with, “You can’t be serious. Did you even look at the paint after they mixed it???”

As I try to reassure him that it’ll be fine, he is not convinced. He’s thinking we’re about to find ourselves living in a bowling alley birthday party room, which is awesome and festive but perhaps a bit over stimulating over the long haul. The whole first coat is spent on what is by now a pretty well-rehearsed back and forth. “I don’t think this is right.”

“Sure it is, we’ll love it.”

“But what if we hate it?”

“That’s certainly possible.”

“You’re not helping. Seriously, what if it’s awful?”

“We paint over it.”

“You’re killing me. Seriously killing me.”

“Paint is cheap; it’s low risk. We’re going for it.”

Thankfully for me, it usually works out. From the burgundy bedroom circa 1995 (that took four SLOW coats to even out) to the red hutch in our dining room to the poppy colored bathroom two years ago, he’s seen an awful lot of color come into our lives. And 90% of the time, he has ended up a fan. Not always immediately, sometimes it takes a minute to grow on him.

He even likes the poppy, which I admit, had me a little worried. After the first coat, it was so bright that it reflected an orange-y glow onto the adjacent hallway wall that made it look like we had a neon bar sign in there. I looked down the hallway thinking for a moment we might have a scene from Backdraft in progress. I wavered for a brief moment, considering how we might have overshot a smidgen. But once we finished getting the mirror back up and the shower curtain & towels in there, it came together fine. A little more powder room, a lot less Saturday night singing karaoke in our guest shower. All good in the end.

There was that one very unfortunate mustard gold color in the hallway… take my advice, your smartphone is good for many things but displaying paint chips accurately is not one of them. Yikes. Just trust me.  I couldn’t wait to get that bad little deal fixed.

So when we recently painted several rooms at our house, and I said I wanted Tidewater on the ceiling, he thought, “Here we go again. Willy Wonka, here we come.”

And now that it’s done? He loves it, and so do I.

The personal growth “bit” here? I guess part of it is remembering that adding a pop of literal and figurative color to our lives is a good thing here and there, just to keep things interesting. You don’t always know what will end up inspiring you. Give it a shot, go for the gold. I mean, you’ll get an ugly mustard colored hallway every now and then, and if you hate it, you fix it with a new pop of color. Maybe not ‘burbs beige though… some other cool color of the rainbow. Yeaaaaaaahh, now we’re talking.

Forward Progress Only

You’re thinking I’m about to talk football, right? And you’re excited to talk about football, since we’re over a month past the Super Bowl and still probably a month away from spring games and the draft. You’re in withdrawal, I can see it. Easy, Slim Shady… this isn’t really that kind of story.

Don’t get me wrong – I live in the Deep South where football rules much of our calendar. My dear friend’s daughter is planning a wedding for this fall, and the first question, almost without fail, from all of our friends… Is State home or away that weekend? I’m totally not kidding. So I get where you’re coming from.

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One of these two loves all things football. And I’m standing next to him. 🙂

 

In fact, I often say our garage door clicker seems to  also automatically turn on the TV to ESPN. It’s truly magic how quickly it happens when we get home in the evenings. I tried timing it once – I didn’t even get the stopwatch app open on my phone – amazing. My husband just plain loves sports. LOVES sports. Like, REALLLLLLY LOVES SPORTS. Especially football. It’s his happy place.

Me? I speak “the language” well enough to stay up with the conversation, most of the time. I even know some of the jargon, which I like to mic-drop into a conversation every now and then and walk away… just so he doesn’t take a notion to underestimate me.

I like to chime in occasionally with a new context-appropriate trash talking comment or obscure stat I’ve picked up, just to watch the funny look on his face – during the commercials, of course – otherwise he probably wouldn’t hear me. “Oh my gosh – what was THAT guy thinking? No way that play works in a 3rd and long – his YAC is basically zero.” Dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah. That’s a SportsCenter reference, for those who need an interpreter.

(By the way, YAC – pronounced like the buffalo-ish creature – stands for yards after contact… as in he gets hit and just falls down… no way he can push through and make the 1st down… impressive for a girl, right?)

Jimmy’s giant YAC… oh, wait, that’s the wrong kind of yak

 

Okay, I digress… because that’s not the forward progress I’m talking about, at least not today. Today’s “bit” is called Forward Progress Only as a nod to my towing skills, or lack thereof. As in driving with a trailer attached to my vehicle. Last Saturday, I set out on a solo adventure, hauling our ATV to camp to ride the trails with family. Jimmy was otherwise committed for the day. He normally handles the hauling of things when we need to, so I was a little worried about whether I could actually get down there and back safely, and without having to go in reverse at all in the 160 miles or so roundtrip. Because I am SPECTACULARLY BAD at backing up with a trailer. I can’t even quantify the level to which I stink at it. Here’s the mental image for you… me behind the steering wheel, trailer hooked to the back and 4-wheeler loaded, weaving S-L-O-W-L-Y on our cul de sac, correcting back and forth like an off-balance chicken, because I can’t figure out which way to turn the steering wheel in order to make it go where I want it to go. It’s backwards, you know, especially challenging for a lefty living in a righty world… or at least that’s the theory I’m going with.

True story: Jimmy threw out his back once doing yard work at his parents’ house, the first time I ever HAD to back up our trailer and truck. I made it home fine (forward progress all the way), but then had to get the blasted thing backed into the driveway and around the side of the house. It was excruciating – for him and for me. Two feet back, veering the wrong direction. Put it back in drive and inch back forward. Try it again. Rinse and repeat. Y’all… we BOTH needed a muscle relaxer after that little exercise. I mean… dang.

So the thought of setting out on last weekend’s adventure was enough to have us all a little worried. I almost chickened out. My parents, trying to be supportive, just said to drive very carefully. Notice they threw in the “very.” It wasn’t lost on me, and I wasn’t offended at all.

I did make it, there and back, with no incident, which I considered a win. And no backing up. Whew, extra points. I prayed extra hard on the way, bargaining really, as if I were on a game show or rolling dice at a casino. “Forward progress, no whammies. Straight there and back, no reverse. Come on, work with me now – Meggie needs a new pair of shoes!”

As I was driving home, I was thinking about forward progress. In football, it refers to how far the ball carrier makes it before he’s down or out of bounds. It’s the point where his forward momentum carries him before he’s stopped. What a great metaphor – just as he keeps pushing, with the help of his teammates – so must I. Being content with the results of regular effort gets me exactly wherever I am today – no further forward progress. So if I never back the trailer, how am I ever going to get good at it?

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Ready to ride… forward.

 

It doesn’t matter whether I’m talking about honing a new skill set at work, mastering reverse with a trailer, or finally figuring out the perfect biscuit recipe at home (Bonus bit for you today – the perfect biscuit recipe. You’re welcome.). It’s always about forward progress. I run into roadblocks, just like an opposing team on the playing field, and it’s up to me to keep working at it, studying the playbook and practicing till the extra effort pays off. Forward progress, pressing on. I like it.

You know what that means for me, don’t you? More towing practice, till I get the hang of it. Watch out, squirrels and anyone else in my path.

Giving ‘Em the Business

I always made it a point to catch up with my Gram Fuller at least once a week. Even in college, as soon as I set up my own long distance plan and connected it to my first credit card, it was so I could call and catch up with her – mainly to see what shenanigans she and her posse of little old ladies were getting into. They did league bowling and lunches out on the town well into their 80’s, and I’d have absolutely loved to be a fly on the wall with them (yes, these were the days before cell phones and unlimited talk/text/data and long distance wasn’t included in any minutes plan – stay with me here).

She might have a golden yarn to relay, like the time they got pulled over for speeding – can you imagine the officer’s surprise to walk up on a cackling car full of sassy senior citizens? He let them off with a warning, and I’m sure he walked back to his car shaking his head, secretly hoping to be like them someday. I can just picture them “giving him the business,” as she called it… and actually that could mean anything from playful teasing to a serious dressing down, depending on the situation. Thankfully, we got way more of the teasing and playfulness – as is usually the case with grandmothers, right?

By the time I was calling from college, the business was far more tame, more likely to be of the pie baking variety, or volunteering at the church’s fundraiser. They might be manning the purple cow booth at the local grape jamboree or heading to their weekly lunch at Honey Bee’s.

Don’t get me wrong – they weathered serious storms – world wars, the Great Depression, family tragedies, the grind of working years, raising children, retirement, aging and losing their spouses. Throughout it all, they had each other – their own little troupe of Golden Girls. And they sure had fun giving each other and their families “the business.” I so admired her combination of grace and determination as she aged – it can’t have been easy, but she continued giving us the business, remarking often how her own mother would say that getting old isn’t for sissies. Even as she lay in the hospital after a devastating stroke, the twinkle was there, and she tried to manage a little chuckle as my dad and my sister came to visit and were up to our usual at her bedside – giving each other the business. That’s kind of what we do – laughter is good for what ails us. The not taking ourselves too seriously helps us cope, even when the outlook is bleak.

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Our Golden Girl at Niagra Falls, circa 1993

My husband Jimmy would say I might have paid attention a little too well, as he gets “the business” often. Like, a lot. Most of it is in the playful teasing category, and I hope I don’t cross the line into hurtful jabs without meaning to. We have plenty enough serious in our lives – just like you probably do. So we treasure the moments when one of us says something silly or does something goofy, or even quotes one of our favorite movies, opening the door for a little “business.”

Movie one-liners are one of our favorite ways to communicate.  We’ve had entire conversations that were nothing but funny movie lines.

Jimmy: “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

Me: “I carried a watermelon.”

Jimmy: “He wouldn’t know a good idea if it hit him in the Pechanga.”

And so on. And on. And on. Bonus points are awarded if we can both switch movies and stay on track. Not that the bonus points mean anything beyond that we’re proud of the volley of zingers, challenging each other to dig deep, not wanting to be the one who has to throw in the towel.

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Having the time of our life at the Dirty Dancing live show in Memphis

So that’s it for now. I’m thankful for “the business.” I don’t have a pretty bow to put on my thoughts here, no major epiphany or great advice to share – other than reminding myself it’s okay to take a break for funny in the midst of whatever I’m working through. You have the same occasional pass too. I’m grateful for those moments where you let go of the stress and just have some fun. I really am. And now I’m moving on.

Me: “I’m going to hop out of the car here and pick up some flowers.”

Jimmy (catching the switch from Dirty Dancing to The American President): “No, sir. No hopping.”

Leaning Toward Fisher’s

As with the other sayings I’ve talked about recently, I don’t know how many times I have heard my mom use this saying, talking about something askew. “No, no – stand it up straighter, it’s leaning toward Fisher’s.” All of my friends have always said my family is full of old sayings, so I just chalked it up to a famous something called Fisher’s somewhere at some time in history, and assumed EVERYBODY knew this old saying. I never questioned it whatsoever. As a kid, it didn’t even occur to me to question the saying – I figured out the meaning from the context pretty easily and straightened up whatever was crooked. Wherever Fisher’s was, we didn’t want to be leaning that way, at least according to my parents.

The not asking… the assumption… the “this is the way we’ve always done it.” Ring a bell? How often do we do that – for ourselves, personally and professionally?

It reminds me of my friend Leigh’s story about her mom teaching her how to cook a ham. First, you cut it in half, and then you season it and bake it at the proper temperature, for the designated amount of time. She asked her mom why you cut the ham in half first, just trying to understand the process, and her mom said, “That’s how your grandmother taught me.”

Eventually she asked her grandmother the same question, thinking she was about to unlock a family secret for the ages. The answer: her grandmother’s original oven as a newlywed was apartment sized, and thus too small to handle a large whole ham for their first holiday at their new place. Her very practical remedy was to cut it in half so it wasn’t quite so tall and would then fit. Genius – for her situation.

But now, three generations have cut the ham in half, not because it makes a better ham, but because one ham, 60+ years ago, was too big for the oven. Wait – what?

I started thinking about that. What am I doing in my life – at work, at home – that may not make sense anymore, but I do it because that’s what I’ve always done and how I’ve always done it? Are you thinking the same thing?

What do I need to let go of in order to grow and learn new ways of doing even bigger & better things? That’s where I find myself. Not always easy, to be sure. Doing the things we’ve done well for a long time gives us a measure of comfort… we’re rock star fishies in that pond. But if I’m so busy doing all of that, how do I get to bigger & better things? I’ll hand off the comfortable for bigger and better any day… bring on the learning curve.

So back to the leaning and the Fisher’s. You know where I’m headed with this, don’t you? What has become just another one of those sayings in my family, and I assumed in everyone else’s… isn’t really an old saying at all. The supermarket in the next block from my grandparents’ home in Geneva, Ohio? Yep, Fisher’s.

So the first picture that was tilted? An absolutely accurate description of how to right it. Nailed it. For the rest of us, all these years later, we may need to think differently. Because leaning toward Kroger isn’t a thing yet.

Down the block from Fisher’s