Don’t disturb my lounging on cloud nine

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

Finally, all the craziness that was the start of my summer is over. Don’t get me wrong, it was all enjoyable in a this-is-the-good-stuff-life-is-made-of way, but rather exhausting. 

I almost hate to publicize this because surely someone will try to find me something to do, but I’ve reached the time of year where I briefly come into an abundance of free time.  Don’t hate me because my time is bountiful.

Not to worry, I know time is precious, and I shall not fritter it away. I’ll spend hours, maybe days deep in the scientific pursuits of nephelococcygia.

If I’m pronouncing it right, sounds something like na-fell-a-cox-a-gee-ya. There’s a high likelihood I don’t have that correct, but I ask that you give me credit for studying such lofty ideas while I could be lying around doing nothing.

It sounds rather complicated; I assure you it’s not.  It can be done almost anywhere, but it is easier during daylight hours.

My favorite place to conduct research is resting on the sandy shores of some body of water. No one else in my family enjoys such pursuits, so I often settle for the lush green grass in my personal backyard.  Said family knows interrupting me carries a stiff penalty. Do not disturb; I will bare teeth and growl.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I can be a bit of a dreamer.  Decades of practice have honed skills that allow me to do it eyes wide open and while others suppose I’m doing something productive. (Let’s keep that between us, please. I can’t have everyone knowing my mind isn’t always where they think it is.) But then there are times I make it known that daydreaming is exactly what I’m doing and there’s no better way than nephelococcygia: the act of seeing and finding shapes in the clouds.

If you really want to get involved, there’s even a group you can join: The Cloud Appreciation Society. I kid you not. Look them up.

My favorite type of cloud varies depending on the time of day, but overall the cumulus – those big puffy ones that pile up – are the best for my purposes. Burdens remain grounded as my eyes swim through a pool of blue sunshine, arriving at the exact moment a castle morphs to a butterfly and flutters away.

Wispy brushstrokes of cirrus clouds paint breathtaking sunsets, and who doesn’t feel good about the day to come when stratus clouds create an early morning stairway straight to wide-open possibilities.   

So much of life requires me to be planted in terra firma. I’m so much better at dealing with that reality after walking with my head in the clouds. So if you see me still, eyes pointed upward, leave me be. I’m up on cloud nine. And when I’m enjoying that soft, fluffy place I conjure up guard dogs with sharp teeth to keep intruders at bay. I can’t promise they’ll stop at a growl . . . their owner’s judgment may be a little clouded.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Thanks to the providers

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, granddads, and great-granddads! It’s your special day, so allow me to give you a big pat on the back. You deserve it.

Most of my recent writings have been a little heavy, so I went on a quest to find some quirky Father’s Day facts with the intent of making this one at least a little lighter and hopefully humorous.

The holiday is fairly young — made official in 1972 — but even considering its relative youth, I was puzzled over finding nothing beyond the sad truth that there are more collect calls placed on this day than any other. Just a shame. But dads already know that fatherhood comes with a price far greater than the cost of a phone call.

I suppose I couldn’t find anything silly because fathering is serious business. Many of us are blessed to have had a man who did the job well – without an instruction manual (not that they would’ve read it) and through countless societal changes in paternal expectations. Two thumbs up, guys, for hitting that moving target.

According to anthropologists, it’s given that a child will bond with its mother. Dads, however, have to work at it. That would explain why they’re just plain more fun to hang out with. Not to say that moms can’t have fun, but we’re certainly not known for ignoring all sense of decorum in the name of garnering a few giggles.

And as if having to best mom to be in the pecking order wasn’t enough, then there’s the job of being a provider.  Even in these days of moms being a mainstay in the workforce, it’s hard-wired for a man to furnish that which a child needs to grow and prosper. The pressure is enormous and goes far beyond monetary.

While dads provide the obvious: food, shelter and clothing, it’s the non-tangibles above and beyond those necessities that really allow for the spreading of wings and eventual flight.

Being a role model, administering discipline, believing in his children, providing physical and mental protection, showing pride, giving of his limited time . . . the list goes on and on as does the investment that often takes a lifetime to mature. It’s a remarkable thing to watch.

I don’t know where we would all be if not for the men who show tremendous inner strength in the face of their own personal challenges and insecurities while being a rock for their children. A look through history shows fathers have seen unique challenges since the dawn of time. They always find solutions.

And while the ladies may sit back and bemoan how it all must look – not so refined, maybe even a little brash – it doesn’t matter because the kids are giggling and deep down they know Dad’s no fool. Thanks dads, for all you provide and especially the laughs along the way. You’re the best!

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Life’s a dance

Author: natalie  //  Category: Life with children

If you’re reading this on Saturday, pray for me, send me some good vibes, well wishes – something, anything, because I’ll be entrenched in what is hands-down the most exhausting, costly day of the year for me. If you’re reading on Sunday, well, I’ve already collapsed and may or may not awaken.  If you see me here again next week, you’ll know I survived.

Before I waltz into my tale of woe, I must first state that I am blessed beyond words to have three physically healthy children. I never take that for granted. (Their mental health is debatable. I’m doing my best, but I don’t always score highly in that department, so…) They’ve tried their hands (and feet) at all sorts of extracurricular activities over the years, but my daughter has gone a steady seven years taking dance lessons.

To seasoned dance parents, I bet I don’t even have to mention what’s happening this weekend. I know some of you are nodding sympathetically while others are thanking their lucky stars those days are behind them.  And I’m sure there are a select few who actually miss it.

Yes, my friends, it’s the highly anticipated (she can’t wait to perform), much dreaded (I have to help her change costumes, hair styles, and make-up many times over and faster than you can say tutu) dance recital.  And this wild tango occurs after spending the two previous consecutive nights rehearsing.

 Jeff enjoys the comforts of home during rehearsals and then gets to sit and see the entire show. Men aren’t allowed in the dressing areas for obvious reasons . . . what I wouldn’t pay to be the daddy, just for that one day. (He can keep the remainder of the year where he toils away to pay for it all.) But, I really don’t mean to complain and there are some deeper thoughts on the subject leaping inside my skull.

As we near the big performance, I always see a hint of mounting frustration with students and teachers alike. The teachers of course want to showcase the growth of their students to the people who tote those kiddos back and forth, spend a small fortune, and wait for hours inside studio. The students:  School is out and most of them are too tired and restless to give a ballet slipper over straight arms and pointed toes.  But somehow, everyone pulls through in the end. I hear the result is spectacular.

When I notice my own little ballerina getting discouraged as she’s pressed to make changes here an there to better the final results, I’m reminded of John Michael Montgomery’s song “Life’s A Dance”. It’s so true.

Sink or swim you gotta give it a whirl.”

Life’s a dance you learn as you go, sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow. Don’t worry about what you don’t know. Life’s a dance you learn as you go.”

I could learn a lesson from that myself. I, too, spend some time feeling disheartened – mostly over my inability to keep up with the beat of the music life’s radio chooses for me. Following has never been my thing, and leading requires sure footing that I’m not sure I possess. I guess it doesn’t matter because I’m a great swimmer  . . . even if I look like a fish out of water. 

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Experience is the best teacher

Author: natalie  //  Category: Life with children

Last you all heard I was anxiously anticipating doing cartwheels upon the conclusion of my daughter’s fifth grade graduation ceremony. Cartwheels and a few ecstatic back flips were executed flawlessly – all the Kleenex sent my way was not needed. And I bet you thought that in the end I would sit and blubber. Not a single tear was shed. They don’t count if they stay within the confines of the eyelids.

I am, however, utterly exhausted as I sit staring at an empty page due to be filled by a looming deadline. I’m highly paid for enduring such stress and performing under it. A lesser person would’ve crumbled by now. I, however, am only a little cracked.

It would be nice if my exhaustion stemmed solely from reckless abandon while celebrating finally moving on from elementary school, but tis not the case. My body is merely tired. My mental faculties: shut down as they’ve used up even the emergency reserves.

Every parent of school-aged children knows that as soon as TAKS testing is complete, the calendar is chock full of all sorts of special, fun events. (I heard a few of you snicker. Yes, I know, “fun” is relative.)

Since I have three thusly-aged children, my calendar runneth over and especially last week. I managed to make it to everything I committed to attend – even showed up with a pleasant demeanor and a smile on my haggard face. I use haggard because laced between those numerous events came the death of a family pet and my oldest was in a car accident.

The car accident was minor and no one was injured. While I can’t say the same for the cars involved, I’ll be eternally grateful for that. But the phone call alerting me to the occurrence took at least ten years off my life. I always wondered how I’d react to such a notification. I’m much calmer in real life than in my imagination.

The family pet: a hamster named Justin. He lived a long, full, happy hamster life and passed away inside what could only be described as a rodent’s Taj Mahal. He curled up inside his food bowl, crossed his cute little pink feet and went to sleep.  Given his age, I knew the day was coming, but the timing couldn’t have been worse.

No matter, I dropped everything, helped a distraught child grieve and took care of the final arrangements. I don’t know which of us cried more.

Justin was by far the sweetest hamster we ever had. (I don’t allow just any rodent to sit on my shoulder.) I cried because I knew I was going to miss him chirping sweet nothings into my ear, but what was worse was seeing my child in such agony.

Upon reflection I realized that dealing with death and destruction on a small scale was a good experience for me and my kiddo. It’s guaranteed that life will throw much bigger losses our way. I suppose the little stresses I bemoan and like to blow out of proportion are good training, but it’s not expertise I look forward to using.

I’ll take that Kleenex for real now because in this end I am going to sit and blubber. And when I’m done: a few more ecstatic back flips because this week is over!

© 2010 Natalie Whatley