Spread the cheer throughout the year

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays

Pardon me while I sigh and fall into a chair. I’m going to rest a spell and let my mind and body digest Christmas 2009. Am I relieved it’s over? Maybe. Of course there’s still some clean-up and waiting in return lines, but being over 300 days away from the mass preparations for the next one is a good feeling.

I mentioned in previous columns that the holidays have become too over-the-top for me, and I probably led you to believe that I don’t care much for the season. That’s not the case at all. I do, however, get stressed-out over all that the holidays entail and in this year’s seasonally-induced delirium realized why. (Been digging deep, lately, as I’m sure has been evidenced by my writing. Rest assured my mental health is mostly intact.)

The truth is: I could use a little rationing of the holiday cheer. I’m force-fed large amounts – way beyond the point of feeling stuffed – in too short an amount of time. Why must such a high percentage of all the “good will toward man” be so concentrated and confined to a few weeks out of the year? Seems I require a steady diet of good tidings of comfort and joy and don’t do well with the extremes of feast or famine.

Sure, there are people all over doing nice things and speaking kind words year-round, but it’s not as noticeable outside the November-December realm. Don’t think I’ve ever been told to be “merry” in August. (Yes, I know, it’s a bit steamy here at that time and bad hair days abound, but wouldn’t some “Christmas cheer” make it more tolerable?)

And while I’m on the topic of more equally spreading Christmas, why do certain foods only make an appearance on the holiday menu? I figure if I more evenly distributed my fudge intake through all the months of the calendar, I could avoid tight jeans in January. On second thought, that may not work, and I would look a little strange wearing sweatpants in July. Cranberries on the other hand definitely deserve more space in our diet as they’re full of health-boosting stuff (phytonutrients). But I digress.

Back to the topic at hand, I’m certainly glad the shopping (despise it), wrapping (tolerate it for the sake of surprised faces), and having far too much on the calendar (I’m truly blessed) are over, but I’m not happy the spirit of the season is over. There will be nothing more said after perfunctory niceties as I go about my days, and it will likely be many months before I sit around a table and have actual face-to-face discussions with people whose company I enjoy.

Why don’t we all get together more often, sit and chat over what seems to be nothing but turns into everything – without a TV playing in the room? GASP! Regression back to the Stone Age? Can conversation start without the prompting of “news” regarding Joe Celebrity and Jane Starlet? It might start off a little awkward, but I have faith that some sparks could catch fire. (If you want a full blaze for New Year’s gatherings, bring up health-care reform and call the fire department.)

So, am I relieved it’s all over? Yes and no. Take away all the tangible trappings and wish me merriment when I’m in the throes of starvation and wearing sweatpants in July.

© 2009 Natalie Whatley

‘Twas the week of Christmas

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays

If you were reading my column this time last year you’ll probably realize that I cheated a bit this week. I’ve been mildly scolded in the past for saying there’s not a thing in the old noggin to write about, but sometimes, ‘tis true. Or, at the very least, some episodes playing in my mind don’t need to find their way to paper – you’d think I have a penchant for the melodramatic. How’s that for exaggerating emotion?

I hope you all enjoy it, again. I had fun writing it even though I shed a few tears. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

‘Twas the week of Christmas, and all through my mind, not a coherent thought was stirring, not even a rhyme. The lights were hung ‘round the house without harm, no body parts broken, or much cause for alarm. Christmas parties were held, social obligations fulfilled, and all I wanted was some quiet and still. The children wrote lists as long as North Main, while dollar signs floated ‘round their father’s brain.

And Papa with his headache, and I with my cat, were hoping one day it’d be possible to just take a nap. When from the upstairs there came a horrid smell. I looked up at the ceiling and started to yell. Away to grab Lysol, I ran a mad dash, began spraying the air wondering which kid to splash.

The light on the carpet outside the bathroom lit the offending parties — they’ll be needing a broom. When what to my frustrated eyes should appear three young people frolicking in good cheer. With an old dog in on the fun, I knew right that moment they’d better run! Faster than lightning the children they split, as they had no idea which gluteal target I’d get.

To a clean bathroom before the herd bathes, I pay homage to my silly rage. So down to the rooms I fly lickety-split, with a few thoughts in mind and envisioning a sit. In that moment, I felt in my heart, the tugging of strings from children so smart.

As I drew in a breath and dared turn around, up in years they went, almost without making a sound. Dressed in much bigger clothes, they’ll all be taller than me. I barely saw it happen. Could it truly be? Larger amounts of knowledge they now hold in their heads. Looks like they’re growing up; it’s full speed ahead.

Their eyes how they wonder, their smiles, how toothy. Their faces are changing, and at times they act goofy. Their mouths sometimes speak in ways that amaze.  And the kind things they do leave me in a proud haze.

With a tiny bit of childhood left, maybe they can handle my not always being deft. The years they’ve gone by faster than I ever imagined, like the blink of an eye, faster than I ever fathomed. It’s had its ups and downs — I always had doubts. And sometimes I cried after filling their day with shouts.


On the brink of tears, and with a new vision in sight, I’ve learned that giving my best would make things mostly right.  They love me anyway, in spite of mistakes. And I’ll see them through no matter what it takes.  Bowing my head, I pray they’ll be safe, while asking forgiveness for decisions made in haste.

Onward and upward, I hope we’ll proceed; it’s not easy being the one in the lead. But a quiet voice tells me as I turn in for the night, it will all be OK, for your path I will light.

© 2009 Natalie Whatley

Saved by the Christmas bell

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays

All right, so I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. Actually, and since I’m among friends, a “bit” doesn’t do my funk justice. I’ve spent some time standing near the edge of a black hole, mesmerized by the swirling vortex at the entrance to a place where not even light escapes. Just when I think I may succumb to the intense gravitational pull, the sounds of sleigh bells ringing during “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (can you hear the song?) take me somewhere else. Whew!  

Since admitting a couple of weeks ago that the holiday season doesn’t exactly put a sparkle in my eye anymore – believe I even muttered a bah-humbug – I decided to take an Ebenezer Scrooge-inspired journey in the hopes of reigniting some personal Christmas spirit.

Christmas Way in the Past: Picture me with pig-tails, teeth missing, and running to a real tree covered with C9 lights burning hot enough to intensify the pine aroma. Life was good on Christmas mornings. The magic started with a very bright Super 8 camera light blinding me almost to the point of not being able to see that Santa brought most of what was on my wish list and few extras on top. And since I’m grown with my own family now, it is a mystery how my mother, the lovely Linda Rowe, managed to look fresh as a flower and fully made-up without so much as a strand of hair out of place while still in her pajamas. Mystery solved: She got out of bed looking that way . . . two hours before the rest of us.

Christmas Past: It was so easy, aside from the lack of sleep. Christmas-morning photos confirm that I looked as tired as I felt. Doesn’t every parent have at least one hold-out child who’s certain he heard Santa land on the rooftop compelling an immediate investigation? (That kid is also the first one out of bed the next morning.) Visions of Legos, remote-controlled cars, baby dolls, and young children rubbing wonder-filled eyes as they made their way down the stairs fill my mind. Life was simpler, wasn’t it?

Christmas Present: It has been said that today is a gift. I believe that, but lately I’m asking where I can return a few. If I can’t give them back entirely, can I at least make an exchange? Surely there’s something that fits a little better. In spite of my lackluster enthusiasm this year, the tree is decorated (but not the mantel), and I’m going through all the motions.  My current mantra: Fake it ‘til you make it! Case of the holiday blues? Nah! Probably my rebellious streak coming out to play. I’ll feel merry when I’m good and ready – not when the calendar dictates.

Christmas Yet to Come: This one gets a little tricky because (gasp!) I can alter it somewhat by my behavior during Christmas Present. That’s an eye-opener and a serious conundrum all rolled into one. If I continue along the path of being the ogre who expects grades, a respectful attitude and a certain level of cleanliness, Jeff and I could spend some holidays alone.  If I throw all expectations out the window and befriend those I was charged with raising, I’ll never have a moment of peace.

I returned from my excursion with Christmas spirit renewed. While the season sometimes seems too much on top of what already hangs from my limbs, time spent with family and friends is a welcomed diversion from that swirling vortex. It’s quite possible that this year I’ve been saved by the Christmas bell.

© 2009 Natalie Whatley

Celebrating big events

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

Imagine if you will a strobe-lit room filled with balloons, streamers, and me throwing confetti above my head. Today marks a special day for me, and I decided to throw myself a little party. Welcome to episode 100 of my column! (I realize 100 is a mere drop in the column-writing bucket, but I wasn’t sure I’d make it this far.) Incidentally, my little celebration is a twofer as I’ll also be observing my very last birthday on Monday. I’m turning 39.

I’ve decided to stop there, because, well, the thought of admitting I’m 40 makes me cringe. I’ve got a year to make peace with it, so I guess I better get busy and seek professional help now.  

I keep hearing that 40 is the new 30, or even the new 20. Yeah, right. I suppose if one’s a multi-gazillionaire and has access to all the latest-and -greatest treatments and procedures, plus on-staff nutritionists, personal trainers, stylists . . . For the rest of us, 40 is 40. Sigh. I haven’t heard the song “Landslide” in quite some time, but for some reason it just popped in my head. And I prefer the Stevie Nicks version:

                Can the child within my heart rise above?

                Can I sail thru changing ocean tides?

                Can I handle the seasons of my life?

                Well I’ve been ‘fraid of changing ‘cause I

                Built my life around you

                But time makes you bolder

                Children get older, I’m getting older too

 As far as I can tell, I’m not buried under a large mass of earth that has fallen down a steep slope, so just maybe this phase in my life will be an overwhelming victory. Only time will tell. Stinks to be impatient.

It seems like just yesterday I was introducing my column and inviting you all along on the ride that’s shaping up to be my midlife crisis, uh, I mean journey to rediscover the parts of me that took the backseat to motherhood.

Putting aspirations on hold – at least temporarily – was a conscious and necessary decision given the particulars of my family. Then I found out like many before me that despite educating myself on the finer points of parenthood and giving it most of what I had, the whole business is a risky, uncertain venture riddled with variables that cannot be controlled.  

Those “variables” are going to force me to ratchet up my maintenance if I’m going to remain 39. Heck, who am I kidding? There’s already too much wear-and-tear.  I might have to revise my plan. Plus, I had some goals I wanted to reach by 40, and it looks like I may need a little extra time.

On second thought, I don’t think I want to be stuck at any age. Through hard-earned wisdom I’ve learned there are some points (possibly years) in life, where it’s desirable to move through a phase quickly. Not that I’m wishing away a single minute. I need to live through it all . . . that should provide at least another 100 columns.   

Thanks for celebrating with me, and for reading. I couldn’t have done it without you letting me know I’m not alone in struggling with the “variables”.

© 2009 Natalie Whatley