Well, I’m As Nervous As I’ve Ever Been

When I was a little girl – not much older than Alex is now – I had a Mississippi State scrapbook. I faithfully cut out any article that was in either my hometown paper or the Jackson paper, and I’d carefully place it in the scrapbook, along with my ticket stubs and pictures from the game day programs. I’ve always loved words, and I’ve always loved college football, and that little scrapbook – which I believe I bought at Eckerd’s – was the first time I’d kept a record of either. I can still picture the way I wrote the score of each game next to my ticket stub – in a blue Biro pen, no less.

This week has made me think a lot about that old scrapbook. The internet has been CHOCK FULL of coverage about the Bulldogs and Auburn and their upcoming game, and it’s been a little bit like drinking from a fire hydrant. Today alone I’ve seen three or four articles about Dak Prescott, three about our coaches, a couple about recruiting, and from my perspective it’s almost been a little surreal. At State we’re pretty used to folks looking past us, so being on the cover of Sports Illustrated is, you know, SORT OF DIFFERENT.

Anyway. I think our game against Auburn will be a good one. And I can’t even imagine how nauseated I’ll be by kickoff because I’m pretty much on adrenaline overload right now. PUT ME IN, COACH LANCE.

(I may have to send a prize to the first person who gets that reference without the aid of the Google.)

Also.

The Bulldogs have gotten so much of my mental space this week that I haven’t even told y’all about something exciting and also terrifying that happened last Friday: I got home from work and found a box of Advance Reader Copies of my new book on the front porch.

First thought: WHOA NELLIE.

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Second thought: This is way bigger than the first book. (It’ll be a couple of months before I see the final typeset version, but there are more chapters in this one than there were in the last one, and apparently that makes a difference.)

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(I had trouble capturing the size differential in a picture. But I promise that the 2nd book is bigger. And also, please enjoy Hazel’s manic movements in the background.)

Third thought: WHOA NELLIE.

Fourth thought: I WOULD LIKE TO HIDE NOW.

Alex actually read the new book this week, and he told me today that he gives it two thumbs up. I was thrilled for about six seconds, and then I remembered that I am in fact the person who buys his groceries and cooks his meals. So I feel that the literal home cookin’ most definitely affected his analysis and evaluation.

Last topic.

I had a speaking thing today for the Samford Legacy League, and before the luncheon someone brought me a gift bag and said she’d been given instructions to deliver it. I put the bag with my purse, and because I had a bunch of stuff to carry to my car when I left, I didn’t open the bag until I got home.

Here’s what I found.

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Well. Well. Well.

It’s a brand new cowbell – and can y’all see that it says “BooMama” over there on the side? Only the “M” is actually the Mississippi State logo?

YOU CAN IMAGINE MY JOY.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that my unexpected cowbell gift is a sign that the Bulldogs will win this Saturday.

But I will say that receiving a customized cowbell two days before the biggest game in my school’s history – well, it sure did put a smile on my face. Maybe even a little sparkle in my eyes. So thanks, mysterious gift giver! My nerves and I surely do appreciate it.

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

Hail State and Go Dawgs!

#3 In The AP Poll, #1 In The Football-Shaped Part Of My Heart

We had the best Friday night and Saturday in Starkville.

And I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around this development all afternoon.

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ISN’T THAT JUST SOMETHING ELSE?

We play Auburn this week, and the fact that we’re #3 and they’re #2 delights me a little bit. Back in 2008 the final score of the State / Auburn game, which just might have been the worst game in SEC history, was 3-2. So I think it’s clear that the Lord really does give beauty for ashes, even in college football.

The Bulldogs are in a tough stretch of their schedule, but on some level it tickles me to have back-to-back games with A&M and Auburn. Both are land grant schools like State, and we all seem to speak the same down-home, land-loving language. In fact, before Saturday’s game I had a lengthy conversation in The Junction with some Aggies from Houston, and we had the best time talking about the turf on our respective football fields and the importance of high-quality sod. I couldn’t wait to tell Melanie all about it.

And speaking of Melanie.

I feel like I need to let some of you know that even though State and A&M had a big game, Melanie and I are just fine. Couldn’t be better. We talked last Thursday and agreed that we probably wouldn’t talk on game day – just in case emotions were running high (we both tend to err on the side of CUCKOO CRAZY where our teams are concerned). But then Saturday morning we texted just a little bit, and somewhere around the end of the 3rd quarter, Mel texted to tell me that the Bulldogs are the real deal. I didn’t answer her right away, though. Too much football left. And State fans know all too well that a win isn’t a win until the clock stops ticking.

Anyway, I thought about Mel and her best friend, Gulley, about a hundred times during the game, and as proud as I am of the Bulldogs (and what about Dak Prescott, y’all?), I have all the respect in the world for the Aggies. Schools that love maroon shirts, good sod, AND Jackie Sherrill have to stick together, right?

The weekend was also extra special because I got to celebrate my birthday with Sister and four of my very best friends from college – Daphne, Elise, Emma Kate, and Marion. We laughed until our stomachs just flat-out cramped, and by the time we got back to Daphne’s mama’s house late Friday night, I had a laughter headache – my cheeks hurt all the way up to my temples and across my forehead. It was so stinkin’ fun, and the older I get, the more I realize what a gift the Lord gave all of us when we were 18 and too busy teasing our bangs to even know to ask Him for forever friends. I didn’t have any way of knowing that those friendships would mean the absolute world to me through every bit of my adult life.

But oh my word. Have they ever. Do they ever.

Elise and Marion already had plans for Saturday morning, but Sister, Daph, EK and I woke up super early so that we could get to SEC Nation and Dawg Walk before everything got super-crowded. I decided to save some spots at Dawg Walk while they went to see Tim Tebow the SEC Nation set-up, and I so enjoyed being able to stand and watch and listen while most everybody else was screaming and ringing cowbells and finishing tailgate set-up. It was the most perfect fall morning on what I consider the most perfect college campus, and while football is what has Starkville and State all abuzz at the moment, I thought over and over again that the people there really are the very best part.

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Sister & EK – just two of the people that make State so special

So. It’s exciting times for the ‘Dogs. And it was an exciting weekend. And it’s going to be an exciting week. But before I can soak in all the many levels of excitement, I need to sleep. Soundly. For as many hours as Hazel will allow.

Hope your weekend was a great one!

Hail State and Go ‘Dogs.

SEC PSA

I don’t know how many of you saw the segment about SEC Wives on GameDay last weekend, but it was pretty much the best part of the morning as far as I was concerned.

Well, what I didn’t know at the time – and until Melanie texted me a couple of days later and told me – was that The Better Half: SEC Wives is now a three-part documentary-type thing on SEC Network. The first episode came on last night, and all I know to tell you is that there is a clip of Les Miles watching himself on a Raising Cane’s chicken tenders commercial that is one of my favorite things that I have seen in forever.

Also, Megan Mullen is DARLIN’ PLUS.

So anyway. I just wanted to pass along the info in case you might want to watch. The SEC Network schedule has all the info about when the first full episode will air again.

And speaking of the SEC – Sister and I are headed to Starkville tomorrow afternoon for the State / A&M game. In fact, I just took my cowbell off the shelf and put it on the kitchen counter so I won’t forget it.

And yes, I did in fact write, “I just took my cowbell off the shelf” in all seriousness. It might sound a little bit like a country song, but IT IS MY HERITAGE.

Anyway, I can’t wait to see the ‘Dogs play. I think it’ll be a good game. And I also think I’ll be a nervous wreck. But it’ll be fun! More fun! Just so much fun!

(I talk like Martha when I’m nervous.)

(Needless to say, I’ll be talking like Martha a WHOLE BUNCH over the next 36 hours.)

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

Every Dawg Has Its Day

Okay. First of all. The Auburn / Alabama game. Let’s just go ahead and talk about it. Because while I had every intention of writing exclusively about the State / Ole Miss game in this post, Auburn had to go and do something that I did not even know you could do – catch a missed field goal and run it back for a touchdown – and in the process they turned the state of Alabama upside down and gave sports fans the most memorable game-ending moment ever.

Seriously. I’ve never in my life seen anything like it. Probably never will again.

And while I know there are countless GIFs and write-ups and recaps all over the internet, this video has to be my favorite reaction.

“HURRY! HURRY! HURRY!”

Isn’t that adorable? I don’t know Nana, but it’s probably no surprise that I want to be her when I grow up. And I think I’m gonna give “HURRY!” a try in State’s bowl game. Might be a nice change from “COME ON, NOW, SON!”

And speaking of State.

I woke up really early Thanksgiving morning – around 5:15, of all things – and I decided to go ahead and get out of bed because I needed to cook a ham and get packed before we left for Mississippi. I sat down at our kitchen table with my coffee around 5:45, and the sun was just starting to peek over the trees.

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When did I get so sentimental about the sun, exactly? And how have I become a person who chases sunrises and sunsets?

I have no idea. But I know that it makes the 19 year-old version of me laugh REAL hard before she crawls back in bed and goes to sleep for the next 14 hours.

It was around 8:30 or 9, I guess, when we left Birmingham, and by the time we got to my parents’ house, lunch wasn’t too far away. We picked up Martha (she was wearing the sweater we gave her for Christmas! the gray one with the roses all around the collar! she looked perfectly darlin’!) before we drove out to my cousin Paige’s house for our big Thanksgiving meal. This is the part where I’m tempted to show you a picture of all the food lined up on the bar in Paige’s kitchen, but I’m not going to do that because I know that most of us have probably consumed more than our fair share of holiday delicacies over the last few days, and I’m afeared that the sight of one more congealed salad or casserole dish full of dressing – delicious though they most certainly were – will send some of you over the culinary edge.

So I’ll just say that the cooks outdid themselves this year and leave it at that.

Sister and I had decided that we were going to leave for the Egg Bowl around 3, so after lunch we visited for a while before we changed clothes (it was 28 degrees in Starkville Thursday night, so smart layering was critical) and headed north for the ballgame (D and my BIL understood that Sister and I were long overdue for some quality time at Davis-Wade Stadium – not to mention that my friend Daphne had offered us two really great tickets – so they stayed at my parents’ house while we made a beeline for Starkville). We traveled a different route than we normally do since we were leaving from Paige’s house, and there were a few times when we got so tickled because as a general rule, folks who drive trucks on two-lane Mississippi highways are accustomed to what I would call a slower travel pace.

I, on the other hand, was ready to GET ON WITH THE FESTIVITIES, so there were a couple of times when I managed some passing maneuvers that would’ve made the Duke boys proud. I wasn’t careless or reckless, mind you. Not at all. But when you’re on a hilly, two-lane road, time is of the essence when you’re trying to get around a Ford F150 that’s traveling at the breakneck speed of 35 miles per hour. GIDDY UP.

Once we hit the four-lane part of the highway, though, we made great time, and we got to Starkville right before sunset. We met Daph, her hubby, and her older son, and after we’d added layers 4 and 5 to our ColdShield ThermaProtection (I totally just made that up) (I don’t even really know what it means) (I just know that we looked like we were planning to do some dog sledding), we walked over to the stadium.

And I’m not gonna lie. When we were on the way to our seats and I looked out over The Junction, I felt like the night held some promise.

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Oh, did it ever.

The Egg Bowl is one of those games where you’re always mindful that anything could happen. And when State missed a potential game-winning field goal in the last two seconds, it was a little bit of a let-down to think about overtime and what if we lose and THIS WHOLE THING SHOULD BE OVER RIGHT NOW.

But then DAK PRESCOTT.

And then DEFENSE.

And then PANDEMONIUM.

Sister and I must have stayed in the stadium for at least 30 minutes after the game, and all we could talk about was how much fun it was and how much we needed that and how sad we would’ve been if we had watched the game on TV and missed seeing it in person. It was such a blast.

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And I know it’s just football. I know it’s just a game. But I can’t think of anywhere I would’ve rather been on November 28, 2013 than in those seats at Scott Field with Daph on one side of me and Sister on the other – and all three of us with cowbells in hand. I’ve always said that the Egg Bowl in 2009 was my all-time favorite football game – and it may well be since D and Alex were there with me, too – but I am here to tell you that Egg Bowl 2013 is running neck-in-neck with it. Because SWEET MERCY, THAT WAS SOME FUN.

So now I’m home in Birmingham again, and Sister is back in Nashville, and Thanksgiving is over, and December is here. There are some Christmas trees in this house that are demanding my attention, and the next couple of weeks are shaping up to be a little on the lively side. But you know what? I feel like I’m ready. Because this past week I had time with my people, and I had time to write, and I had time to travel, and I had time to watch some mighty good college football. That 17-10 ending to the Egg Bowl just made all of it even sweeter.

Hope y’all had a great Thanksgiving – and Happy December to you!

The Return Of The Football Crazy

I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned how I’ve tried to back off of college football a little bit this season. It’s not that I don’t love it – because YES, YES I DO – but this fall has had more weekend commitments than I’m used to having, and I knew that if I was trying to make it to games and and plan road trips and keep up with all the message board drama, I wouldn’t have very much time at all to write, which is sort of what my publisher expects me to be doing since, oh, I have a book due in the spring.

So I’ve backed off. I’ve only looked at the message boards a couple of times since baseball season. I haven’t been to a single college football game this year. I have been to a couple of high school games because FISH GOTTA SWIM, PEOPLE, but I’ve watched very little College Game Day. I haven’t known much about the Top 25. I’ve watched my Bulldogs on TV, of course, and I’ve watched some of the big SEC games, but I think David and Alex both would tell you that I’ve been way more balanced this year. You know, sort of like a normal person might be.

But then there was Saturday.

I woke up early Saturday morning with every intention of getting some writing done, but first I wanted to to run to the post office (all the signed books that y’all ordered are on their way to you) and play a few rounds of Candy Crush before I committed to any serious writing. Just to get my fingers good and limber, you understand.

Finally, though, I sat down to write – at that point it was probably mid-morning – and the words weren’t having anything to do with me. They were distant and uninterested and uncooperative, and everything I wrote sounded like a form of writing that Melanie and I like to call “Since the dawn of time.” It’s what happens when you try to force the words, and as a result the sentences start sounding like a high school essay with a very broad purpose.

“Since woodworkers and tradesmen first started to hone their crafts…”

“Since filmmakers first began to capture moving images in story form…”

“Since man first put pen to paper…”

“Since the dawn of time, man has wrestled with…”

You get the idea.

I eventually decided that I was in no mood for “Since the dawn of time,” and since the Mississippi State / Arkansas game was about to come on TV, I figured it couldn’t hurt to watch a couple of quarters and then get back to all the not writing I’d been doing.

Well.

By midway through the 2nd quarter I was standing in a corner of the kitchen while I watched – with my face about eight inches from the TV screen. I yelled, I admonished, I encouraged, and I said, “COME ON, NOW, SON” with more enthusiasm than I have all season. By the end of the third quarter I was wiped out, frustrated, and worried that I’d managed to waste a writing day. So I decided that if I changed locations, there was a chance I might be able to write and the ‘Dogs might be able to eek out a win.

So anyway. D said he didn’t mind if I went to Starbucks for a little while, so I hopped in the car and headed that way with hopes of helping the Bulldogs (I’m really not serious about that part) (okay maybe kind of a little bit) and working my way through the writers’ block. I took my laptop so that 1) I could continue to follow the game and 2) I could at least pretend like I was writing. I didn’t have very high hopes for it, but I was so discouraged by that point that even some good old-fashioned pretense beat nothing at all.

Once I found a table, I cracked open the laptop and checked in on the game. I also opened my Word document because, well, PRETEND TO WRITE, and then I clicked over to Twitter because I think we all know what my priorities were in that moment.

The game ended up being way more exciting than I imagined it would be – and it cracks me up to see how Twitter tells the tale.

The Bulldogs had a chance to kick a field goal for the win at the very end of regulation…

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…but we missed it. And had to go into overtime. And Kelly was miserable, too.

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But overtime was unexpectedly good for the Bulldogs.

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I felt like my decision to change locations had been a good one.

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And we won.

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Kelly grieved.

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And do you know that after that game was over, I wrote more in about forty minutes than I’d managed to write all day?

Clearly college football inspires me.

So that was our Saturday. And our Sunday was delightful. What’s even better is that we have a big, wide open week ahead of us. I’m gonna soak up every bit of it.

Happy Thanksgiving week, y’all!

It’s About That Time

I am elated to report that the high today in Birmingham was 78 degrees. SEVENTY EIGHT DEGREES. It is August 15th.

The Lord is faithful and worthy to be praised.

And then – AND THEN – if that weren’t enough, I found this little treasure in our mailbox this afternoon.

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I realize that you’ve probably already seen that picture if we’re friends on Twitter or Instagram, but I think it bears posting again because COLLEGE FOOTBALL, OH MY WORD.

I have to say, though, that this summer has been so busy that I’m way behind on my usual pre-season activities. I’ve barely read the message boards, and I haven’t listened to sports talk radio in months. I don’t really know who’s supposed to be good this year except for Alabama and A&M, and since I live in Birmingham, those predictions provide fair warning that I have about two weeks before walking into any clothing store means that I’ll be swimming in a sea of houndstooth. Don’t get me wrong. I am happy for my Alabama friends and their rich football heritage and etc., but have mercy, I WOULD NOT MIND A BREAK FROM THE HOUNDSTOOTH.

Because here is what every clothing store looks like from September – December.

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There are houndstooth dresses and shirts and gloves and headbands and earrings and umbrellas and paper goods and sunglasses and phone cases and dog leashes and scarves and tights and more scarves and shoes and rain boots and never let it be said that the Alabama fans do not enjoy a theme.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking tonight about how lots of the SEC teams have a catchphrase (for lack of a better term) that their fans say to each other as a sign of loyalty or solidarity or pure-dee football crazy. In Alabama people even use the phrases as greetings – so instead of saying “hello” or “hey,” Auburn fans greet each other with “War Eagle,” and Bama fans greet each other with “Roll Tide.” The phrases also work for “goodbye.” Sort of like “aloha,” I reckon.

(This video provides an excellent illustration.)

(And if you’re wondering if it’s realistic? YES.)

At Mississippi State, we greet each other with “Hail State” (though Sister and I tend to say “Go ‘Dogs,” for whatever reason), and Ole Miss fans say “Hotty Toddy” (lately there’s been a whole thing with “Fins Up,” and even though I know Rebels don’t care a lick about a Bulldog’s opinion, I think the whole land shark thing muddies their mascot waters – but that is another discussion for another time). In the last couple of years Vanderbilt fans have adopted “Anchor Down,” but I don’t know if it has caught on as a campus-wide greeting or if it’s just more of a team motto. Texas A&M fans are partial to “Gig ‘Em,” and while Arkansas fans don’t necessarily say hello to each other with “Woo Pig Sooie,” they have turned #wps into one of the most recognizable college football hashtags (well done, Razorbacks).

The bottom line is that each SEC school has its own unique culture, right down to the ways that fans communicate with each other. I know that schools outside the SEC have similar traditions, and now that we’re just a couple of weeks away from kick-off, I thought it might be fun if some of us shared our favorite saying(s) for our favorite college team(s). I mean, I think it would be all kinds of fun to watch, say, the Akron / UCF game on August 29th and have the inside scoop on what the fans like to yell. Otherwise I’ll just be sitting on my couch and cheering, “Go…YOU! Go!”

(And listen. I know that it’s important to keep college football in the proper perspective. Certainly I don’t think any of us intend to let our whole lives revolve around football. But I do think it’s fun to enjoy the anticipation of the season.)

(I believe I’ve sufficiently over-explained.)

All righty. What say you, college football fans?

p.s. Hail State.

p.p.s. Go, ‘Dogs!