Thanks for the ride, Blue

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

This past week was one crazy and contradictory journey. It saw me through a road trip I’d fantasized about for quite some time. But much to my surprise, when the light turned green I had a difficult time placing my foot on the accelerator.

Twelve short years ago, while three months pregnant and wrangling two boys ages five and two, I met Blue. It was love at first sight.

He was a brand-new, 1999 Chevrolet Suburban with all the seating and room my growing family would ever need – the quintessential mommy-mobile. (Some hold minivans in such esteem, but for reasons I can’t quite explain, I refused to go there. They’re just not me, but if you love yours, I respect that.)

Blue carried us home that day, and a long committed relationship began. Over the years he’s been present and provided reliable transportation for many major milestones: took all three of my children to their first days of kindergarten, brought home baby number three from the hospital, carried us safely to Florida for a Disney family vacation  . . . the list goes on and on.

Of course it’s easy to remember the big events, but what I appreciate the most about Blue was how he was always there for me day in, day out. There were hundreds of trips to the grocery store, school outings, doctor appointments, containing and transporting treasures I found during the course of my days; he safely delivered me and my cargo to every place we needed to be – even when there was no particular destination save for a needed clearing of the mind.

But life has a way of changing and I now find myself in a much different place. Today I’m feeling blue because my Blue is out in the driveway with “For Sale” painted on his large windows. I can hardly bear it.

Research has been done – some scientifically formal and some pure quackery – on the theory of “you are what you drive”. I read a good deal of it, and can say that Blue absolutely personified me and where I was in life for many years.  As you all know, I’m in a far different place now and so is Blue.

I won’t come right out and tell you what has taken Blue’s place, but she’s red, sleek, has a sun roof, and dare I say, a “Kathunka-boomer” stereo. (Thanks to my fellow columnist, Chris Buckner, for providing me with that term. In honor of you, Chris, I’ll turn it down whilst fueling. I’m classy that way.) You should read what the “you are what you drive” research says about all that. Because I like to remain mysterious, I won’t confirm or deny its validity.     

I’ve already admitted to being somewhat in a midlife-crisis sort of place, so I’m taking all the comments along those lines in stride. Plus, I know that while “crisis” often has a negative feel, it can go the opposite direction and simply be a turning point. For certain, my traveling companions can attest to some sharp turns and being jostled about without warning.

Thanks for all the rides, Blue, and for your gentle way of tempering my spirited flares. I’ll keep those lessons in mind when Red throws too much fuel on the fire.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Sweaty, grumpy, and pests! Oh,my!

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

Ahhh . . . summertime in southeast Texas. The humidity and mosquitoes are in abundant supply. Thusly, this week’s inspiration is brought to you by perspiration and itchy-skin irritation.

I’d much rather be outdoors than in, and the above pesky, summer nuisances are working overtime to assure I stay cooped up. It’s a coup I tell you. And a grand conspiracy designed to dampen my mostly sunny disposition.

I’ve been forced to find things indoors to fill my time. Of course there’s always a swarm of housework, but that’s no fun. I’d almost rather hang out with the skeeters. Almost.

In a brighter moment—between feeling sticky and swatting away pests—I discovered that my friend, Melvin Roark, determined through mathematical calculations (and possibly a little too much time on his hands) that his yard housed at least 1,346,400 mosquitoes.

He started off by counting how many of the little buggers were contained in a single square inch. The fact that he arrived at that staggering result all by himself is mighty impressive. (Pardon me for a moment while I bow to a greater math master. Words, not numbers, are my thing.) However, it wasn’t the numbers that got me to chuckling, but rather what he proposed doing with those tallies.

Melvin said if mosquitoes qualify, he’s applying for an agricultural extension on his homestead because he has unwittingly become a big time mosquito farmer. That’s funny, Melvin. But hang on to your insect repellant, folks. It gets better.  And I have to wonder if Melvin even realized the comedic element of what he proposed. (A little legal disclaimer to protect the innocent Melvin Roark against potential governmental backlash: I did not share with him what I actually found so amusing about his idea. Continue reading. It’s coming.)

Agricultural extension practitioners are usually employed by government agencies – local on up to world wide. Their “responsibilities” are mostly along the lines of educating farmers by bringing proven scientific methods to increase yields, but wait . . . you guessed it, there’s funding involved along the line. (I read a fraction of the fine print for you. I would’ve consumed it all, but it seems I found the cure for my insomnia.) Anyway, do you see the bloodsuckers on both sides of Melvin’s proposed equation?  Heh. Heh.  Using one bloodsucker to gain benefits from another. Pure genius.

Since Melvin is potentially set up to profit from working not-so-hard on the propagation of an annoying insect, I figure someone here in town better counter his measures from another angle. I’m studying and working on lowering our humidity because the thermal sensing capabilities of the mosquito are as much as three times greater when the humidity is high.

I hate to be a wet blanket, but I doubt I’ll make much headway because, unlike Melvin, I won’t have access to any of those fancy-pants-governmental types who fly in and claim they can bend nature. No matter, I suppose, because I understand enough math to know that Melvin’s high crop yield, or not, dew points above 70 and the commensurate high relative humidity totals up to 100 percent misery. And I’m being a real drag, so I’m telling me to buzz off!

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Things that go splash in the night

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

Throughout my life I have suffered bouts of sleeplessness. My body can be at the brink of exhaustion, begging to shut down, but the hamster on the wheel inside my mind keeps chugging away. Hamsters do not have long life spans, so I am starting to worry a bit – nothing like a little anxiety to aid an already-present sleep problem.

However, I’m learning to clear my mind and let my little rodent friend run. The trick is not allowing her to have a destination. Eventually she realizes she’s going nowhere fast and hops off the wheel. I wish I could be as smart.

But before that process takes place, I need darkness and relative silence. The tiniest of electronic-gadget lights must be behind closed cabinets, and my three kids know that making noise while mom tries to go to sleep is a crime punishable by . . . well, let’s just say it’s not pretty.

So, the kids, the husband, and even Scooter the dog know the drill. If I could get the latter two, who sleep on opposite sides of me, to quit snoring, my shut-eye quantities would increase three-fold. (Don’t tell Jeff I told you he snores.)

That brings me to a family member yet to be mentioned: Shadow the black cat. Recall that he showed up a couple of Halloweens ago, made himself at home, and adopted us. For a variety of reasons that I won’t delve into today, he’s required to wear a bell around his neck. And, he refuses to follow my sleep-time regimen, but also wants to spend his nights in my bedroom. (If I lock him out, he scratches on the door. Why do I know there are some feline haters out there saying, “That’d be one dead cat!”?)

Anyway, he starts off at the eastern-most edge of the master suite, the closet, and through the night moves his way to the western side, onto the bed, and atop my feet. Both of us are getting accustomed to this, and most nights he can hop on the bed without me hearing his bell.

But a few nights ago, I awoke to a different sound . . . something like a small metallic object clacking against a hard surface. Coming to, I discerned it was Shadow in the water closet getting a drink from the porcelain bowl.

I’d rather he not do that, but it wasn’t worth getting up over. I made a mental note to put the lid on the bowl at night and turned over to resume slumber.

In the next moments I drifted close to sleep only to be jarred to full alert by commotion nothing short of sheer panic meeting chaos. Splashes, frantic scratching, and the eventual flopping of a drenched body onto a splattered floor all added up to: somebody lost his balance and was getting a cold, unintentional bath!

I would’ve gotten up to help, but I was giggling (trying to be quiet and not wake others) and shaking uncontrollably. I knew Shadow was alive because he began darting around, bouncing off walls and basically trying to get away from what he was enjoying just moments prior.  

I settled down and eventually went back to sleep. The next morning, I picked up a still damp Shadow from atop my feet, chuckled, and told him his embarrassing secret was safe with me.

Oops! Well, at least I didn’t tell everyone he snores.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Let freedom wring our necks

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, National

Please join me in wishing the great United States of America a happy birthday.

Comparatively speaking, we’re still quite young as far as countries go. Other localities around the globe feel we still have a lot to learn. And for all the advances we’ve contributed to the world we could certainly make some improvements, but only here do we understand how that knowledge must be gained.

We probably appear as unruly children, bent on pushing boundaries and thumbing our noses at those who wish to bring us in line by swatting our ample backsides. Yeah, I said it . . . ample. Statisticians say it’s the American way. And before anyone feels I’m pointing a finger, know that I’m soldier in that battle as well. I aim to keep my target smaller than those in my immediate surroundings – lessens the chances of a successful strike.

But I digress, and I assure you this column is not about hind ends, collective or otherwise.

I’m just tickled to be here on this July 4 and to have been born into a country that suits my temperament. I would’ve already been beheaded in some other places, or at least had my tongue cut out.

Independence is something I innately understand. My mother, the stunning Linda Rowe, will tell you it reared its head within my personality long before I knew what to do other than assert it.

Nearly 40 years of living with myself has taught me that independence is a sharp double-edged sword that must be wielded carefully. I’ve cut myself and others, even felt like falling on my own weapon a few times, but I learned not to make the same mistake twice.

That’s the beauty of freedom, we have the choice to be or do just about anything our hearts and minds imagine. We’re even allowed to mess up royally or abandon pursuits for any reason.

Am I advocating grand ideas with no follow-through? Heck, no! I just feel it’s great to be able to mess up, discover practicalities, and possibly find a quicker route to the finish line or start another race altogether.

We’re a different breed here – descendants of people determined to go it alone in a vast new world. Their hardships and steely resolve gave birth to the country I love and know as home.

There’s so much happening today that makes me wince, doubt where things are headed, and plain scare the rocket’s red glare out of me, but I wouldn’t trade it. Can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

We’re hardy folks, and sometimes our dumb decisions cause freedom to wring our necks and remind us of the responsibility that comes with it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We live. We learn.

Remember those brave souls who gave us this day to celebrate and the chance to stumble on greatness . . . even as we stumble over our own feet. Happy Independence Day!

© 2010 Natalie Whatley