Hallelujah! It’s Football time!!

English: UT Pride of the Southland Marching Ba...

English: UT Pride of the Southland Marching Band performing the “Salute to the Hill”, a longstanding Tennessee Football tradition, before the 2006 UT vs. California game. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It’s football time in Tennessee!” my dad announces in a booming sing-song voice as he clicks the remote to the channel broadcasting the Orange and White. I can hear the Pride of the Southland Band playing Rocky Top while thousands of fans sing along drunkenly and the sports commentators talk above it all. We’ve got a pot of chili cooked, cheese and crackers, chips, pretzels, hot-dogs, cookies, and several two liters of carbonated drinks. My father, who incidentally is a pastor, comes the closest to losing his religion every Saturday in the fall. He superstitiously wears a Tennessee tee-shirt or sweat-shirt on every game day, and yells instructions and insults at his beloved team.

 

“The dad-blame quarterback is too afraid of the sack!”

“Yep! There ya go, boys! Snatchin’ defeat from the jaws of victory!”

“OH YEAH! Let’s use the same play that hasn’t worked for the past ten downs!”

“He couldn’t hit a bull in the rear end with a bass-fiddle!”

 

The season has begun.

 

Autumn is my favorite seasonal time, and not just because all the world conspires together to coordinate with my hair color. The fall days are a transition from summer to winter and are, in my mind, the loveliest time of the year when the days begin to shorten, the temperatures begin to cool, the kids go tripping merrily back to school, the supper meals get heartier and more savory, the trees dress in their fiery-colored finery, the air is sweet with a tangy musk, the evening dusk is both orange and purple, and the season of football begins.

 

Here in the South, football is a religion. Stadiums are our temples of worship, fight songs are our hymns, and we work ourselves into a charismatic frenzy shouting for our team (and against the other guys’). I first caught the religious fervor of football while on the high school bleachers. The competitive spirit felt between the Juniors and Seniors at pep rallies suddenly transposed to a family unit feeling at the games. We were all Golden Eagles, and clapped, sang, and cheered as a whole. On cold nights, we’d sit huddled together on those hard ass aluminum bleachers all covered in blankets and coats. We scalded our tongues on steaming hot chocolate sipped from styrofoam cups. We danced when the marching band played “Say Hey!” We yelled for victory as prompted by the homecoming queen and her court (also known as the high school cheerleading squad). Friday night was an Event, with a capital “E,” for us. I have many’a fond memory of those chilly fall nights with the friends of my youth. We felt young, immortal, connected, and happy—despite our scalded tongues.

 

In college, my love affair with football continued through Homecoming weeks full of Greeks competing to claim the top school spirit prize. There were chili cook-offs, step shows, fight song competitions, and the long awaited homecoming parade. To this day, I can never give someone a gift without remembering the floats I covered with zillions of tiny bits of tissue paper. College football games contained all the goodness of high school football along with the added benefits of liquor and no parents. The marching band was filled with music-major friends of mine who would sneak booze into their instrument cases, and we’d enjoy a bit of our own school “spirit.” I know I had a blast at those games—I just can’t remember most of them. Currently, I’m trying to host a big reunion tail-gate party for our school’s Homecoming this October. I’m hoping to remember this game—even if I don’t understand it.

 

You see, while I adore everything that is football season, I don’t rightly understand the actual game. Don’t bother trying to teach it to me in the comments—I’m afraid I’m a lost cause. All I know is there’s this yellow line, and the team’s gotta cross it with the ball. If they do, you sing the fight song. If the big, ole sweaty players make it to the other team’s end-zone, that’s a touch down, and you sing the fight song again. That is the sum-total of my football knowledge. I can sing a kicking fight-song.

 

I think I actually avoid learning the rules of the game, for fear of it spoiling my enjoyment of the event itself. I’m already ignoring how football perpetuates gender stereotypes—what with the bulky and aggressive male heros, and the scantily-clad and leggy cheerleaders. I knowingly turn a blind-eye toward this (and even signed my daughter up for cheerleading) because I am in love with football! Don’t ask me any player’s name or team name for that matter. Don’t ask me about any stats or Heisman candidates. Don’t ask me whether that was holding or a face-mask. Don’t ask me about conferences and leagues. I can’t tell you anything about the game I claim to love. Your best bet is to just ask me what the menu is for the tailgate, and the lyrics to the fight-song. Oh, and here’s a spare pom-pom.

“Let’s Go, Boys!”

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“Why Bother to Wish it Then?”

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“Well, wasn’t that what you wanted? I thought you wished to see the ocean.”

“I did.” said Jane, looking very surprised. “But I never imagined the wish would come true.”

“Well, great oceans! Why bother to wish it then?”

This quote from P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins has always made me catch my breath and stop dead in my tracks. I had it hung on a quotes wall in my school computer lab last year for all of the students to read. I could write article after article about all of those quotes–the books, music, or movies they’re from, the authors who wrote them, and how they’ve helped shape my character. For the sake of time, however, and because I was out shenanigizing until dawn this morning, let’s stick with the Poppins quote.

I’m pretty sure I’m a self-sabotager. (is that a word?)

“Let me explain. No. It is too much. Let me sum up.”

I’ve never had any shortage of dreams, goals, and aspirations, and yet somehow they all seemed like the proverbial desert mirage–unobtainable, feathery figments of my mind. I’d desperately desire to be and do the things I claimed were my dreams, but never actualized any scenario where I would see those dreams lived out.

I would cite varying reasons why I could never accomplish such and such, or I’d do just enough to make it look like I had given my best shot at it; all the while knowing that I had zero intentions of actually being or doing the thing I wanted to do.

Am I alone in this? Does anyone else keep themselves at bay?

I’m sure there are a zillion psychological insights which could tell me why I do this, but I’m guessing fear and control are the primary motivators. You know, like breaking up with your boyfriend because you’re certain he’s going to break up with you, or knowing you’re going to fail so you quit before you fall on your ass in front if a crowd. That type of thing.

This past year, though, has smacked that silly shit right out of me.

Maybe I’m having some type of aging crisis. Admittedly, I have blogged and facebooked about turning thirty-five more than anyone should be allowed to do.

Maybe I’ve just now accepted that my untapped potential is worth a go.

Maybe I’ve finally decided that I am special enough to have special things happen to me.

Maybe it was that Ashton Kutcher speech.

Either way, I’ve personally challenged myself and met those challenges with fireworks, confetti, and champagne. Metaphorically, of course–I hate cleaning up confetti.

This may be the start of a whole new way of life, and now that I reflect on it, I wish I had realized all of this much sooner. Who knows where I’d be or what I’d be doing? I could be singing on the Met stage. I could be autographing CDs for adoring fans. I could be the director for an award winning high school choir.

It doesn’t do for us to worry about the “might have been’s” in life, so today I’m making an official declaration. (cue the royal trumpeters!) Going forward from here on out, I’ll no longer find myself surprised when I get to “see the ocean.” Instead, I’ll expect it–because I drove the car down to Florida myself.

Who’s up for a roadtrip with me?

Thirty (gulp!) Five!!!

I’m slightly freaked out.

Ok, so it’s more like I’m freaked out in an overreaction that presents itself in a melodramatic show of: wailing and gnashing of teeth, listening to sad music for emotional cutting purposes, and gorging myself on chocolate, cookie dough ice cream, and copious amounts of homemade wine.

I’m (gasp!) turning 35 in just over a month.

Waaaaaaaiiiiiiiillllllll!!!

To be stereotypical as possible– How did this happen? How am I this old?

I burst into tears today while doing laundry; grieving over the passing of my youth, I imagine.

I’ve got crow’s feet and white hair.

My cheek isn’t as high as it used to be.

My tits certainly aren’t where they used to be.

My ass never really has been what I wanted it to be.

Bottom line, I can tell that my looks are fading, and I’m taking the loss of them terribly hard.

This shock and sadness over my appearance solidifies what I’ve been adamantly denying for years. Admitting it is the first step, so here we go, folks…

I’m superficial and vain.

That song IS about me.

Although I’ve never been what some would call a “real beauty,” like Elizabeth Taylor, Jennifer Aniston, or Ingrid Bergman; with the right makeup, lighting, and Instagram filter, I can hold my own.

I was a late bloomer though. In high school, I was a dorky girl with a flannel shirt ’round my waist and wild Alanis Morissette hair–because middle-of-nowhere-Tennessee is exactly the place for the 90’s grunge look, right?
Wild hair coupled with an outrageous wardrobe that was equal parts thrift store and hand me downs pretty much nailed down my role as the token teenage misanthrope. I never felt pretty in high school, not even at my prom.

So naturally I tried to reinvent myself in college as a pretty and preppy sorority girl.
There were two problems, though: 1. The sorority I joined was full of rabble rousing girls who cared more about having good times than being the cutest group of girls on campus. (and boy, did we had some good times, folks…whew!) And 2. It was the late 90’s when wearing baggy overalls and an Old Navy tee was considered being “cute.”

Thank God for Sex and the City and In Style magazine! I suddenly became aware of haute couture, dressing for my body type, how to tame my Alanis mane, and the right way to apply make up.

I was 20, and feeling pretty for the first time!

I felt pretty confident most of the time during my early 20’s–especially when walking arm-in-arm with my two girlfriends who were taller than my own 5’9″ frame. We’d wear four inch stilettos and own any bar we walked into. Ah, those glorious 20’s! With all the cat calls and wolf whistles, I’d forgotten there was ever a time when I felt less than beautiful.

I rode this wave of beauty for more than a decade; navigating two pregnancies and the coinciding yo-yo weight with clothing savvy to minimize the flaws in my appearance.

Stacey and Clinton would’ve been so proud.

This upcoming birthday, though is messing with my head like a philosophy professor.
I’m actually seeing the bloom fading before my eyes…

Waaaaaaaaaiiiiillllll again!!!!!!

I decided to do something daring, adventurous, and Sex and the City inspired.

I had boudoir and nudie pictures taken.

Oh yes, I did.

Now, dear readers, there is photographic evidence that I once was pretty.

I know that real beauty is on the inside. It’s in the way mothers love their children. It’s in the way girlfriends are always there for one another. It’s in the tears you cry when you’re moved with overwhelming compassion for a stranger. It’s the sweat on your brow as you prepare a big Sunday afternoon feast for your family. It’s the light in your eyes when you laugh.

I know all of these things.

But that doesn’t make the onset of middle age any easier.

This does.

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Photo by: Emily Ann Hill Photography.

A Novel Lesson

Fiction teaches us all about the truth of life and the common threads in humanity. No matter where a novel is set or when it takes place, I am often struck with the feeling of being united with the protagonist in the struggles of life.  I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned from my favorite rectangle shaped friends, and ask you to do the same. What have your favorite novels taught you?

1. I’ve mentioned the impact that Anne of Green Gables had on me in another blog, but must bring the series up here too. I think I lived on Prince Edward Island in a former life because this story resounds so strongly with me. I’ve known Anne, Marilla, Diana, Gilbert, Rachel Lynde, Ruby Gillis, and Josie Pye my entire life. They are as real to me as my flesh and blood friends. That statement may send me to therapy one day, but there it is. For better or worse, this book series helped make me who I am today. Enough of that though, on to what the books taught me–besides ejaculation.

Never make fun of a red-headed girl unless you want a slate cracked over your head.

Always keep your home in apple-pie order just like anyone raised by Marilla Cuthbert ought to.

When you want to play the Lady of Shallot, check your dingy for leaks.

If a boy makes fun of you, show him up by correctly spelling “chrysanthemum” in front of the class.

Check every doughnut box for fireworks prior to chucking the box into the furnace.

Always have an extra bottle of ipecac.

Wear puffed sleeves without exception. The bigger the better.

Talk to flowers and trees.

Being smart is better than being good looking.

Recite poetry. Recite it with dramatic flair.

Jonah days come to everyone.

Live beside the sea if you can and seek out a lighthouse keeper/former seaman to live within walking distance of you. Trust me on this one.

Bosom friends and kindred spirits are the best things about life on this planet.

2. Tolkien. What an amazing writer and map drawer.  I read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy about every two years, and see something new and amazing each time. The world he crafted in Middle Earth, complete with thousand-year-old-legends, battle histories, and all types of fascinating creatures never ceases to dial up my sense of wonder.

Things that reading Tolkien has taught me:

Hobbits are the shit! Lovers of good food, good drink, good parties, and good fireworks. They are steadfast and faithful friends, which leads me to my next one.

Everyone needs a Sam Gamgee in their life.

Rings are powerful things.

Tom Bombadill must do mushrooms or acid. No one acts like that, even if they’re a metaphor of the creator.

Trolls are stupid.

It’s handy to have a good relationship with eagles if you’re ever in a tight spot.

The desire for power will corrupt you.

Trees are people too.

You can live on a diet of elven bread for weeks.

It’s a dangerous business stepping outside your door.

Sometimes an unexpected party is the best kind.

Showing mercy on pitiful creatures may save us all in the end.

3. I read Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree upon a friend’s recommendation. Once I got myself past the lack of punctuation, namely commas and quotations, I really enjoyed the read and learned much from this wayward anti-hero, such as:

Everyone needs a J-Bone in their life. (see the Sam Gamgee and bosom friend comment above…I see a trend in my life lessons.) One never knows when one will become fatally ill and pass out in a communal bathroom. J-Bone WILL find you and carry you to safety.

Do not molest watermelons. If you simply can’t help yourself, avoid getting caught.

Don’t throw trash in the river. All the descriptions of the Tennessee River with garbage floating in it made me sad.

You can make money by poisoning flittermice.

A story doesn’t have to be far-fetched, fanciful, or overly dramatic to be interesting. Our everyday life is the story.

Living plainly, with little earthy possessions can be a sweet life.

Early Times is the “best drink they is.”

Avoid mudslides during storms on the river.

Moral ambiguity isn’t all bad.

4. The Devil Wears Prada–because we can’t read legit lit all the time. This is my go-to read when I’m feeling frumpy. Immersing myself in the world of haute couture and the bustle of NYC is as good of a pick me up as a chocolate bar. Often I read this while eating chocolate for a total emotional lift. Things An-dre-ah Sachs has taught me:

Learn to drive a stick shift. This is still on my to-do list, but I mean to do so soon.

When two belts look identical, keep your mouth shut.

Gay best friends are tops at helping you look your best.

There is such a thing as “too skinny.”

“That’s all.” never really means “That’s all.”

There are few things more intimidating than a tall woman walking confidently in a four inch pair of stilettos.

Don’t trust handsome writers who brag on your writings.

Don’t ignore your boyfriend.

Don’t ignore your alcoholic best friend, especially if she has been listening to Jeff Buckley non-stop.

What seems the most important thing in the world may not be. Take a step back and assess your perspective.

5. Pride and Prejudice How could a list of novels not include this one? I could crawl into this book and wallow around in the pages of it, I love it so.
Lizzy and I would’ve been best friends! I actually think my best girlfriends are real life variations of Elizabeth Bennett. Things I’ve learned from reading P&P:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Entailing estates to male heirs is a piss poor idea.

Keep an eye on Kitty and Lydia at all times.

Mr. Collins is always good for a laugh, even if he is unaware of this fact.

Men, when proposing, always behave in a gentleman-like manner.

Women, don’t be too hasty to believe handsome men when they tell you how they’ve been wronged by another.

Lady Catherine’s buttresses are quite impressive.

If you want to snag a man, ride a horse through the rain, get very sick, and stay at his place until you’re well.

Stay off of Mrs. Bennett’s nerves.

If you feel affection for someone, show it, otherwise you run the risk of losing them.

Visit a man’s house before declining his marriage proposal.

The saddest one: Mr. Darcy doesn’t really exist.

Ok, now share yours! What have you learned from your own adventures with fictional characters?