Don’t mind your gray matter

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, National

I feel somewhat responsible for keeping you all up to date on current obscure events. If today’s installment doesn’t enlighten you intellectually, I’ll consider it mission accomplished as it will be in keeping with what February 27 was set aside for.

Today is No Brainer Day. You probably weren’t aware because documenting it wouldn’t have fit the spirit of the “holidate” as founded by “America’s Premier Eventologist”, Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith.  Koopersmith wears many professional hats, but I had to look up eventologist – never heard of the profession, but it’s someone who makes up altruistic, educational, recreational, or just plain fun events. Sounds like interesting work.

By definition, a “no brainer” is a task that is simple, obvious and/or totally logical. Is it just me, or we could use several of these strategically placed throughout the calendar? Then again, I revel in over analyzing stuff and would become suspicious of being asked to shut my brain off too frequently. I probably wouldn’t cooperate more than once a year, or better yet, I’d secretly declare my own brainless days. I’ve had moments where I was clearly not using the old noggin. This should give me a valid excuse for faulty decision making.

I’ve mentioned a time (or maybe two) that all the over-commercialized holidays aren’t for me. Not that I don’t appreciate the meaning behind them, but I could live without the stress associated with what’s considered “proper” celebrating.  

No Brainer Day requires no decorating, no cooking, no spending sums of money greater than the entire economy of a small country and lastly no supporting a massive greeting card industry. I’m a tiny bit peeved I didn’t think up this special day myself. And for the record, I have no beef with greeting cards, but I’ll buy them when I feel like it and not because sappy commercials tell me I should.   

The premise behind it all is that we should spend today doing simple things that require little or no mental effort. So, write this down and stick it to your bathroom mirror: “Turn brain back on”.

Now, go ahead and shut down the frontal lobes – command central for self-control, planning, reasoning, abstract thought – and the neocortex which is the center of high-order thinking, learning, and memory. Because you’ll likely want to live through this brainless day, leave the brain stem (controls breathing, heart rate and other processes we don’t even realize are being handled) and the cerebellum (responsible for balance, posture and coordination of movement) in the “on” position. Enjoy your day minus the brainwashing life has bestowed.

As you awake refreshed tomorrow morning, mind free from years of clutter, don’t forget to read the instructions you left yourself on the bathroom mirror. Oh no. You can’t read or remember how to get to the bathroom. What have I done? This may be my biggest cranial misfire ever. Happy No Brainer Day!

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Say what?

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

So we’re having an abnormally cool winter here in these parts.  While I don’t enjoy feeling chilled as much as I have lately, it’s not the cool temps I find most bothersome, but rather the gray dreary skies that often accompany them. The blah horizon seems to wash over everything, and I’m finding I don’t do well in a colorless existence.

Shades of gray make up many of the nuances that are part and parcel of human existence. Statistically, I’m about halfway through said existence and that fact has caused me to decide that life’s too short to be spent in gray-area neutrality – even if only confined to conversation. And that got me thinking about the saying “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.”

It sounds easy enough to execute, but when we consider that there are three possible meanings for every word it’s easy to see why misunderstandings and conflicts arise. A speaker knows what he means, the listener thinks he knows what the speaker means, and then there’s the actual dictionary definition. Just for grins, I think we can also include male/female communication dynamics. We should all take a bow – it’s amazing that anything gets accomplished.

While I don’t fully subscribe to Dr. Brad Blanton’s Radical Honesty movement – because I’m certain that following the tenets that call for all speech to be unfiltered would have many of us going around beyond angry, if not feeling completely dejected – it does seem things might run a little more smoothly if we could all stop the verbal dance that leads to all parties feeling as if they were trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

I don’t know, maybe I’m feeling this way because on top of the gray skies, it’s election time. I’m exhausted from trying to decipher hidden meanings and innuendo – just give it to me straight and without sugar coating. From there, I can form a rational opinion. But I digress.

Getting back to gray and throwing in black and white because they can be stubbornly problematic, I’d like to think I can say what I mean and mean what I say in a calming shade of blue – if I were so inclined. I mention inclination because some conditions call for fiery reds (I’m a little too practiced in those), or the bane of many writers, some drippy purple prose. I’ll try to stay away from nauseatingly-sweet pink.  But what if I’m feeling a little envious? Could I not use green to get my point across?

Maybe I should strive for being silver tongued – speaking in lustrous grays that deflect my inability to get off the fence. Nah . . . that wouldn’t be any fun. Like comedienne Lily Tomlin once said, “If you can’t be direct, why be?”  I can’t “be” without any decided qualities or characteristics, and I refuse to be black and white. Fiery reds and calming blues . . . that’s what I say, and I mean it.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Citizen Police Academy Forming

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

As a graduate of the Baytown Citizen Police Academy, I promised to let you all know when the next class was forming.  In case you forgot, I had loads of fun, learned a lot about the inner workings of the Baytown Police Department, and lived to tell about some rather riveting moments during some hands-on class participation. Now it’s your turn.

Classes start Thursday, February 18 at 6:30 p.m. and will run for ten weeks. The police-work-related program, guided by Academy Coordinator, Officer Beasley, is designed to give citizens a better understanding of the operations and mission of the Baytown Police Department.

Coursework will begin with an introduction to the academy and an overview of police terminology. The remaining weeks will bring officers sharing specialized areas of expertise and equipment. Topics to be covered: crime prevention, K-9 units, terrorism, crime scene investigation, use of force, gangs/organized crime, hostage negotiations, building search, traffic stops, and a tour of the city jail.

I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite because they were all interesting. Everyone enjoys the K-9 units for obvious reasons, but you’ll be amazed watching the dogs perform what they’re trained to do while learning how they acquire and maintain those skills. Terrorism: It’s perpetrated on many different fronts and for a variety of reasons; law enforcement must remain vigilant and keep track of many tentacles.  Building search tested my mental fortitude – basically I have none when it comes to looking for bad guys in dark places. Crime scene investigation had a few grisly moments, but nothing any modern member of TV-viewing society couldn’t handle. And the tour of the jail: I suppose it’s a nice facility as far as jails go, but I’ll do what’s necessary to remain on the outside.

After the fifth week of instruction, students are eligible for an eye-opening ride along in a patrol car. If you’ve ever called and requested an officer for a non-life-threatening reason and wondered what took them so long . . . this is for you. The “action” is non-stop.  This portion of the program is voluntary and not a requirement for graduation.

Upon completion of the academy, there will be a graduation ceremony and banquet. Students are also invited to join the Baytown Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association, which brings together graduates to enhance relations between the community and the police force and to improve the efficiency of law enforcement in neighborhoods through shared responsibilities and resources.

With additional training, graduates also have the opportunity to become involved in Citizens on Patrol. This new program focuses on handicap parking enforcement and assisting patrol officers by being extra eyes and ears watching for suspicious activity.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

To err is human, to forgive takes a spine

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

Alexander Pope, famous eighteenth century English poet and satirist, once wrote “To err is human, to forgive divine.”  Broken down, it means we’re all going to mess up at one point or another and that it would be of the highest possible testament to goodness if we could grant pardons for true and perceived wrongs while ceasing to be resentful. But I’ve got my own twist, and it may force me to seek chiropractic care in the end.

In the stress-filled world we live in today it’s not difficult, even in a short amount of time, to gather up a pile of grievances large and small. Using an irksome tone of voice after a long day is minor, but depletes goodwill over time. (Raise your hand if you’re guilty of sometimes speaking to strangers in a friendlier manner than family members who share the same home. Sadly, I have both hands up.) And what about the bigger transgressions? How we handle both extremes and everything in between has an enormous impact on our physical and emotional well-being.

There are several “Love Language” books available encompassing many variations of relationships by Gary Chapman, but it was a little different version on the same premise, “The Five Languages of Apology” written by Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, that actually got me thinking about forgiveness and delving deeper into the subject.

What I learned as I made my way through each “language” was that words and/or actions that constitute an apology to one person may not come close for another.  Often times, we go about life thinking something was dealt with while in reality it’s still festering – growing into a barrier that could forever impede forward motion.  Thus the reason genuine apologies are a necessity and in return forgiveness.

Further along in my quest to become fluent in asking others for their forgiveness, I stumbled upon a large impediment to feeling forgiven: forgiving myself. And I’m not talking about excusing behavior . . . more along the lines of, “OK. I’ve turned myself inside out and upside down. Held my feet to fire. Admitted I was wrong and handed down some stiff inner-disciplinary action.” Now what?

It takes some backbone to stand up, look the woman in the mirror straight in the eye, and call her out. She can get pretty testy – may even attempt to look away in the hopes of deflecting my fiery resolve.  But standing toe-to-toe and refusing to drop my gaze, I made my intentions clear: The lashing was over and inner-prison time served.

Shoving pride to the side, she squared her shoulders and stood a little taller. With a shaky yet persuasive voice regrets were expressed, responsibility accepted, restitution offered, and repentance made followed by, “Will you please forgive me?”

A blurred reflection revealed a pile of grievances carried for far too long falling to the floor. A chiropractor won’t be necessary. I feel divine.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley