Like sand sifting onto the sheets…

Author: natalie  //  Category: It's all about me, Life with children, Wedded bliss

Sometimes life gets busted up into fine debris, and I’m happy to have it pass quickly through the hourglass.   

MONDAY — Gathered all the dirty laundry on my bedroom floor for sorting. Standing amid piles, I made the mistake of turning a swimsuit right-side-out over Jeff’s side of the bed. No less than a pound of sand sifted onto the sheets. (Yes, the bed was unmade. Sue me.) Since I wasn’t in the mood to strip the bed, I vacuumed it. And much to my surprise, Mr. The-Bed-Has-To-Be-Just-So was none the wiser – fell right asleep without ever knowing the sandman paid a visit.  

TUESDAY — Went to see “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3-D” with my younger two. Yawn. Not my type of flick, but it gets five stars for not exposing their impressionable minds to obscenities or any unsavory themes. The highlight of the trip was when I tried to move a straw dispenser over and away from the sprinkle-form popcorn toppings. The dispenser, held in place by rubber feet, didn’t budge, but the cover fell off and hundreds of straws rolled onto the floor. I was mortified, apologized and began picking up what fell on the patron-side of the counter. One sweet, very young, cherub of an employee treated me like an imbecile. Being a semi-public figure, I held my tongue.   

WEDNESDAY — I know many are fans of “Dancing with the Stars” and others have spent vacations swimming with dolphins. Me, I’ve been showering with ants. Big ones. They appear to be coming in through the plumbing, and my shower hit peak occupancy just before we got that touch of rain. Before I rinse, lather and repeat, I squash, drown, and laugh as they swirl back to where they came from. (I don’t like squashing insects, but started after one got away and told his friends I was only armed with a loofah sponge. Who’s laughing now? Keep it up, and I’ll put my quadruple-bladed razor to creative use!) I’m hoping the others making their way up will take the carcasses as a warning.    

THURSDAY — I’m giving serious consideration to going completely blonde. Ever since I started getting a few gray hairs, blonde high-lights and strategic plucking have handily camouflaged the aging process. I had to stop plucking a long time ago, or sport partial baldness. Now I fear I’m becoming a bit “high-maintenance” trying to maintain brunette-ness.  The upside:  With such a drastic change to my look, I could show my face at the movie theater again. Hey . . . I could play dumb and possibly be treated like someone who spent forty dollars on seeing one movie!

FRIDAY— Feeling a bit vain about obsessing over my hair, I sank into a deeply depressed state. Does it really matter? YES! Massive caloric intake was in order. Jeff and I made banana splits, crawled in bed and watched some mindless TV while we ate. I’ll worry about my waistline when I get my tresses lined out.

SATURDAY — Middle child said my name should have been “NAGalie” instead of “Natalie”.  My initial response was the same as yours: sounds a bit disrespectful. But he and I have that kind of playful relationship. He said it with a huge grin as we were arguing over/discussing the state of his room. While we literally see eye-to-eye because he’s about to be taller than me, we have differing ideas on what constitutes “clean”.  When I tell him I’d like to be able to walk across the floor, he hears, “shove the mess to the perimeter”. 

. . . So are the days of my life.

© 2009 Natalie Whatley

Rest in Peace, Deputy Detwiler

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

Nearly a week has passed since the tragic end to Chambers County Sheriff Deputy Shane Detwiler’s life. Over the course of days and news coverage, emotions spanned a broad spectrum as we were all reminded of how quickly the gift of the “present” can vanish.   

In the beginning details were sketchy, but before long it was apparent many lives were forever changed: one deputy fatally wounded, others witnessing the tragedy and even more officers involved in what would be an hours long stand-off with the shooter.   

Being a resident of Chambers County and the City of Baytown, I couldn’t help but feel it was hitting a bit close to home. Chambers County lost an officer, and Baytown Police were dealing with the aftermath.  I was saddened and angered over the senseless loss and worried for those who remained.

In the days following, we all came to know the fallen officer: Shane Detwiler –husband, father, friend, decorated soldier, and public servant.  By all accounts he was a fine man. One the world is a lesser place without.

As I read between the lines of news stories my heart ached for his wife: A mother of two sons, age four, almost two, and an eight-month-old daughter –a younger version of my own family. She described Shane as chivalrous and a hands-on father who would get up with babies during the night. Blessed with a similar version in my children’s father, I can’t imagine her pain, but fully grasp what she’s lost.

When I read of Shane’s military career and the speed in which he obtained his college degree, graduating summa cum laude, it struck me how this man had talents that could have taken him anywhere. He chose the citizens of Chambers County.

On Friday, I stood with hundreds on the flag-lined curbs of Garth Road and waited for the opportunity to show Shane’s family and friends how much his service to our country and community meant. Strangers became acquainted and introductory chit-chat quickly turned to the reason for the gathering. Sadness, appreciation, pride, and, yes, anger were woven into the fabric of conversations.

Dark clouds gathered early on, but almost on cue the skies cleared and bright sunlight shined over the long procession. I wished I’d thought to count the vehicles.  Those lining the road remained silent, saluting and hands over hearts for the entire line as news helicopters hovered above.

Back at home, I saw news coverage of the funeral. With an amazing amount of strength and grace, Trish Detwiler spoke and asked that we all remember Shane for his character. Given all we now know about her beloved husband, that won’t be difficult.

Reflecting on the swirl of it all, I hope the outpouring of support from the community comforts Trish and her young children as they transition to a very different life. I also hope the officers of this area who rode in the procession realize how much their communities are behind them.

Police officer, or not, none of us know for sure what we’ll walk into each day. Armed with that fact I hope to be a little better about showing my appreciation long before I take any part in another funeral procession.

My deepest condolences to Deputy Shane Detwiler’s family.

© 2009 Natalie Whatley                                                        

My twist on life’s lemons

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you, Life with children

As I mature (sounds better than “age”), I’m learning the value of seeing the glass as half-full. I work hard to put things in perspective, and when my mind isn’t up to the task the Big Guy puts someone in my path eager to lend some real obstacles to my ears.  I trudge away, eyes pointed northward. Message received. I’m travelling over molehills while others scale Mt. Everest.

That said, sometimes my children, uh, I mean life (Did I say “my children” out loud?) hands me things that cause my face to contort and pucker. I become a sourpuss. Summertime bickering, anyone? How about a tall glass of fresh lemonade? It’s not summer without them.

I personally love pink lemonade. It’s a sweeter version than the yellow variety –more sugar and a little grape, strawberry or cherry juice for its pink tone.  I’ve never tried any of the fancy recipes –the ones that use mint, ginger, or ginger ale –but with a bumper crop of little lemons I’m sure to try them all.

Dale Carnegie, writer and self-improvement guru from a by-gone era, was credited with coining the proverb, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!” Basic lemonade: water, lemon juice, and sugar. As stated above, it can get far more complicated, but the classic taste requires the proper ratio of sweet to sour in order to be agreeable to taste buds. What’s a girl to do when four weeks of kids being out of school have already used up all the sweetness she had?  Mimic the Europeans, I suppose –they enjoy “clear lemonade” unclouded by sucrose.

To deal with my influx of yellow citrus, I also considered another little gem (author unknown) I came across in a when-life-hands-you-lemons discussion: “When life hands you lemons, squirt juice in his eye!” It sounds good in theory, but then I’d have to take him (or her) to the doctor. Oops! I did it again!  I’d have to take “life” to the doctor. Research tells me it would only cause irritation, not blindness, but I bet I’d still be in trouble.  Headline: “Columnist’s children had one lemon of a mother! The fruit will do hard time”.  

Lemons shouldn’t be getting such a bad rap from me. They look, smell, and taste refreshing in the proper context, and the juice, which contains citric acid, has uses galore. It’s in many types of household cleaners; according to some, one doesn’t need fancy chemical-based concoctions –lemon juice and water will do the trick.

The culinary possibilities are only limited by your imagination, and you’ll get a healthy dose of Vitamin C to boot –not to mention your liver cleansed! (If it’s on the internet, it’s gotta be true!)  

Lemon juice also has antiseptic qualities and was used back in the day to clean wounds. (I believe they stopped using this method because the wounded passed out from blowing on the mother of all stinging.)  And did you know a nose bleed could be stopped by putting a couple of drops in the affected nostril? Maybe the nose stops, but I bet the eyes start hemorrhaging. Sounds unpleasant.

Me, I think I’ll take my lemons and work out my summer frustrations with a micro-grater. Sunny zest for life makes everything sweeter!

© 2009 Natalie Whatley

Transformed by deadlines

Author: natalie  //  Category: It's all about me

I’m not much in to movies, or television for that matter, but last Tuesday my clan wanted to check out the new Transformer movie: “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen”. Because I like spending time with them, my first-born stick-in-the-mud self tagged along. Plus, I saw the first installment, and gawking at the new 2010 Camaro was well worth the price of admission. SUH-WEET! (Jeff knows I want one. He offered to drive me to the dealership and fulfill my heart’s desire, but my practical side won’t hear of it. I don’t know why I listen to her . . . she’s not much fun.)

Back to the movie, I was on a mission of sorts and multi-tasking to boot: I’d watch intently and find a way to work those two-and-a-half hours into a column designed to be read in two-and-a-half minutes. Sounded easy enough.

The Transformers, fictional alien robots from the planet Cybertron that turn into devices, animals or vehicles, made their United States cartoon debut in 1984 preceded by a line of Japanese toys started in the 1970s and a Marvel comic book.  I remember hearing the “Robots in disguise” mantra on the many Saturday-morning commercials hawking action figures released in tandem with the show. I was fourteen, barely awake because I’d stayed up late the night before watching “Friday Night Videos”, and uninterested in anything my younger brother liked to watch.

With my lack of childhood knowledge and the fact that I didn’t “get” the first movie, either, I had trouble following the must-see cinematic money-maker from the get-go. Shortly after the show began, my mind started traveling to faraway locations, and I became antsy confined to a chair with nothing else to do. (I “watch” movies at home while reading at least two books, surfing the internet, and penning a few words as inspiration strikes. It’s rare for something on TV to grab my attention and keep it.)  

When it was finally over I asked my fellow watchers their thoughts while exiting the theater. They enjoyed it for what it was: a diversion from everyday life with lots of eye candy. No one really seemed to know (or care) what the “message” was, and I was ruining the experience by asking. Underneath vivid special effects, it was your classic “Good vs. Evil” with good prevailing after stumbling over the many setbacks evil placed in its path. My co-viewers didn’t care: “Stuff blew up!” Sigh. It’s me, not them.

Writing on a deadline has transformed me. My thinking has shifted to an even more introspective place and the lenses through which I view life have gained clarity. Through prioritizing, rearranging, and deleting items on the eternal to-do list, I’ve forced myself to meet a few goals. I inspect everything that comes my way, get a charge out of finding my own quirky angles, and dig my way to deeper meanings . . . constantly.  Then I look for ways to push self-doubt aside, and use the information gathered. In light of what I’ve learned, I feel beholden to aim higher.

If I could bust out of my serious, sometimes robotic, introspective mind-set . . . transform into a sleek sports car and take off speeding through all the menial things and get to what I’d really like to accomplish before the final deadline –that would get my attention.

 © 2009 Natalie Whatley