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. ūüôā

 

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.”