No confusion here

Author: natalie  //  Category: Issues, National

Ever have one of those weeks when everything seems all out of sort? One where you have a lot on your proverbial mental plate and you can’t get focused on even the most mindless of tasks? (Cough…Like writing a newspaper column.)  That’s exactly where I was this past week, and I’m finding it difficult to give that location a name.

The only word that comes to mind is discombobulated.  (My children fuss at me frequently for using big words in my column. They read and want to know just what in the heck I’m talking about. I hand them a dictionary. They roll their eyes. I smile because it is my pleasure to annoy them . . . turnabout is fair play.)

I decided to consult Webster’s before using the term to be sure it was indeed a real word and an accurate portrayal of my state of my mind. I have this quirky little habit of making up words; then I use them frequently enough that they become real to me. Thus the reason I was unsure of discombobulate’s status.  

A couple of my trusty dictionaries didn’t have a listing. Upon consulting additional bound paper reference sources, I finally found an entry. Much to my dismay, it appeared I was discombobulated over the meaning of discombobulate. And you thought you had problems.

Discombobulate: to confuse or disconcert; upset or frustrate, has been noted as a fine example of the speech of the Wild Frontier. The word came to use some time in the 1830’s. There is no particular individual credited with inventing the word, but those who study these types of things (etymologists) say it must have been someone who enlarged his (etymologists chose the masculine pronoun) vocabulary by grossly disfiguring the innocent elements of the English language. I guarantee this “man” occupies at least a twig on my family tree.  I know this will fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but this is also proof George W. Bush does not have the market cornered on bungling our language.

I thought discombobulated meant that I was feeling out of sorts and disconnected. It’s not going to sound nearly as intelligent to tell you I was feeling a bit scatter-brained this week. In the end, I located an online dictionary entry that showed discombobulated to mean exactly what I originally thought –disconnected and unbalanced. There was no mention of confusion or frustration, but I’ll certainly add those to my discombobulated repertoire.

I started this little disjointed journey feeling a bit like my head was detached from the rest of me. After wasting precious minutes of your life reading this, you’re all probably ready to search me out and make that feeling a reality.

The truth behind my unsettled thoughts is that my own personal world is changing almost more rapidly than I can stand, and the swirl of what I view as my outer world is scaring the daylights out of me.  I’m torn. I desire success for our new President because the continuation of the greatness of the United States of America depends on it. But I can’t wrap my mind around policies set on taking this country away from the ideals of our founding fathers.  On that, I’m completely combobulated.

© 2009 Natalie Whatley

Driven to my knees

Author: natalie  //  Category: Life with children

***Photo added this week…you’ll read why. I realized my online readers didn’t have the photo that runs with my newspaper column.  I need all the positive thoughts I can gather at this point!

Days ago, the Whatley household crossed one of life’s major milestones. My oldest “baby” turned 16 and having completed all the requirements set forth by The Great State of Texas was awarded his driver’s license. (Help a girl out: Look over at my photo and say, “Why Natalie, you don’t look old enough to have a son driving.”)  Thanks, I needed that.  I feel like I’ve aged 20 years in the past 12 months.

Around this time last year, we started the Texas Department of Public Safety’s parent taught driver’s education course.  For those unaware, the schools no longer offer driver’s ed.  Current options are: paying hundreds of dollars to a driving school, or taking on the task yourself.  The State provides many avenues to purchase curriculum at very low cost. But if you’re one who subscribes to the theory of “we only get so many heartbeats”, you may want to consider paying a driving school.

After a brief amount of instruction over the basics and the passing of a written test at the DPS office, 15 year-olds are issued a learner’s permit which allows them to drive with a licensed driver over the age of 21 in the passenger seat.  We figured the sooner we got that, the better. The State then requires more book work and a minimum of driving six months under the permit before the full-fledged you-can-drive-by-yourself provisional license is issued.  

Because life and limb are involved, Jeff and I decided six months wasn’t long enough for us to feel comfortable. So, he had almost a full year of riding with our incessant nagging, uh, I mean our instruction and counsel. It sounded like nagging because all new drivers cause moments when there is no other parental  tone of voice available other than the screeching, “hit the brakes…Hit The Brakes!…HIT THE BRAKES!!!”.  One hasn’t lived fully until experiencing those harrowing moments.

The real downside to all of it is that once you start critiquing their every turn on the road, they return the favor. Let me state for the record that I was not designated as the official instructor (the state requires one adult to be “it”); I did not go through all the book lessons with him. That pleasant task fell in Jeff’s column (I bet he’s rethinking the decision to put me in charge of labor division). Anyway, I’ve been grilled constantly over little-known traffic regulations; I’m certain my son stayed up late at night poring over the books to find questions he knew I’d answer incorrectly.

Six months into his “practice” we added the third vehicle, which would be his, to the Whatley fleet –wanted him to get the feel of what he’d be driving. I desired a massive wad of bubble wrap with wheels, but his dad helped him find something way cooler.   

The upside is that his new freedom will free up large amounts of my time as he’s reached that age where transporting him for his social life and school activities is at least a part-time job. When I throw his two siblings on top of that . . . well, now you all know what I do with my days.

I hope he knows what precious cargo he’s carrying. His first morning out alone, I passed him on the road as I returned from my daughter’s school. He waved at me. I started to cry. We’ve done everything possible. Now he’s flying solo, and I’ve been driven to my knees. Please Lord, don’t let him drive any faster than his guardian angels can fly.

***  What I also failed to mention is that the above photo was taken BEFORE my son was driving…here’s the AFTER…

© 2009 Natalie Whatley

I’ve got it maid

Author: natalie  //  Category: Home sweet home, Life with children

I’m de-lighted (Christmas lights have once again been removed from my home without injury) to announce that as of this writing I’m spending my first day home alone since December 18, 2008.

Since I received a package of chocolate bon-bons for Christmas, it’s mighty tempting to take up residence on the couch and consume the whole bag. But I’m suffering from a head injury and to be quite honest I’m afraid to sit still. I could fall asleep and . . . I’ve got a bit of a headache, and some dizziness, but through slightly blurred vision I was able to make out two pupils of equal size.  My bell has been rung, so I’ll busy myself with this until I’m feeling steadier.

Shortly after Christmas, I got the feeling my entire home needed to be de-cluttered. I passed through each room, garbage bag in hand, and removed the gift packaging strewn about the entire house. With trash removed and new gifts taking up space, I then searched out all the items that were no longer wanted/needed. That brings me to today, where upon looking around I notice a good deep-cleaning is needed in a variety of spots.

This pattern repeats itself annually. I always get the spring cleaning bug a little early, and it works well because when spring blossoms the last place I want to be is indoors cleaning.

Getting back to how I injured myself, I must confess that I have a variety of housekeeping mishaps that always amuse me in hindsight. This one will be no different, but I’ll probably wait for the bump on my noggin to disappear before I laugh.

I was vacuuming the lower stairs with the hose and stair tool while the vacuum rested on the landing above me.  I’m seasoned at this type of work and in my 14 years of doing it I’ve never had a problem. However, I was a wee bit aggravated over a morning-time encounter with one of my offspring and was probably not giving the job the attention it required. In my zeal, I pulled too hard on the hose and the 22 lb. (I weighed it) vacuum came crashing down on my head. Ouch!

I’m now very interested in the nine pound Oreck vacuum that I regularly hear advertised. (I’m living with one teenager, one frightfully close, and a third not far behind. I’m told it could be years before the aggravation subsides. Note to Jeff: If you want to spend your golden years with me, a lighter vacuum is essential.)

As amusing as the above may sound, that event doesn’t come close to trumping the day I got my finger stuck in the fabric softener dispenser of the washing machine.  I stood joined with the washer for quite some time before I fully appreciated my options which included waiting for someone to come home and call the fire dept., or suffering what medical folks call a “de-gloving” injury. Painfully, I opted for the latter.  I wasn’t fully dressed. Hey, I didn’t want the bleach I was using to clean the grime ruining even my nasty house-cleaning attire.  

The man who loves me in spite of my homemaking foibles offered to pay an outside cleaning service back before the kids were all in school. I refused because I’d want to clean before they came, and what would be the point? He upped my life insurance.  Now, as I age and get over myself and the mess my clan makes, I’m beginning to rethink that decision. But the kids are all in school now, and I supposedly have it maid . . . someone should have cleaned up before I got here.

© 2009 Natalie Whatley

You can shine in 2009

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, National

As one who enjoys observing the world and all that goes on in it, I keep my finger on the pulse of the wild roller-coaster ride we call life. I thought for some time about the new year we have before us and decided I didn’t want to look back. So, let’s all take a breather from what has been and look to what will be.

I have no expertise in predicting future trends, but I can Google with the best. Below, you’ll find a synopsis of what some in the know say will be hot, hot, hot for 2009. Fashionable highfalutin types claim that those of us who hang our hats in the Southern United States take about two years to catch up with pretty much everything. I’m doing you a great service here; many of our brethren won’t catch on until 2011. Here’s your chance to look very avant-garde.

I’ll start with women’s fashion because, honestly, is there anything else? (For those who are without the curse/benefit of knowing me outside of what you read here, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek. I despise shopping. I’ll be forced to relinquish my female card as soon as this is published. Worse, I’m perfectly fine carrying a purse from Target or even Payless. Hey, I’m ahead of the recessionista trend bucking to upset many fashionistas.)

Starting at the top and working my way down: Braids, twists, and buns with a feminine yet functional look will rule well-coiffed tresses. ‘Smart’ make-ups, and not just foundations, that automatically adjust to the natural tones of your skin will abound. (I may actually like these products. No thought required. Just apply, and voila!) There will be variations of the mini-dress (start working on the legs now) with futuristic, boxy, boyish tailoring and geometric prints in sherberty pastels and hot brights. The new neutral will be hot pink. The must-have shoe: metal cage boots. (I kid you not –don’t know what they look like, but it doesn’t sound like something that goes with a dress.) Anyone else getting a visual?

Jewelry will be bigger and bolder than ever. Oversized pieces made from natural materials (look for wood and coral) will complement (not so sure about that given the clothing description above) the year’s fashions.  

Moving along, the new rage in investments will be “green” products or companies looking to “go green”. Stem-cell research is also looking promising.

Technology will bring us even more consumer electronics with the big splashes this year being made on the “home hospital” front. Cool medical gadgetry once only available to medical personnel will be yours for a moderate price, of course. But mobile personal technology will be the center of the universe for most new applications. (New applications? Good grief. How much more “wired” can we all be?)

On the exercise front, be on the lookout for all sorts of programs boasting very brief, but extremely intense workouts. (This is one I just may have to investigate. I am curious as to whether shorter, more intense suffering will garner results.  If I actually try it . . . well, you’ll probably hear me scream.)

Near the end of my semi-exhaustive trend review, I was tickled almost hot pink and felt far from neutral when I ran across the comment, “Things that are really hot for 2009 are friends and family you enjoy spending time with, clothes you can afford and feel comfortable in, jewelry from someone who loves you, and food and drink you enjoy.” Cheers to that!  Happy New Year!

© 2009 Natalie Whatley