My apologies for bugging you

Author: natalie  //  Category: Home sweet home, Issues, National

Sitting at Gentry Junior School’s start-of -the-year orientation, I was delighted to hear from school nurse, Gayle Boisture, that the H1N1 virus—otherwise known as the swine flu—had been downgraded and was not the concern it was this time last year. But I must warn you all of the latest threat. On your behalf, I stay on the cutting edge of trends and have been monitoring something creepy for a good while. It’s time for me to sound the alarm.

If you are in the least bit squeamish, or if the mere mention of head lice makes your scalp crawl you may want to stop here. My head’s feeling a bit itchy, and I may not sleep for a week, but I’m highly compensated for such burdens.

An infestation eradicated decades ago is rearing its ugly, bloodsucking-insect head here in the good ole United States of America. I’d seen a sprinkling of news stories with professionals warning it was coming as the problem was getting severely worse around the globe, and tucked it away.

Most of what I ran across sounded “chicken little”, but the headlines are popping up in greater frequency and I recently learned that the Environmental Protection Agency held a summit on the impending crisis in 2009. What has some high-ranking officials bugging out? Bedbugs.

The little critters have caused Ohio’s government and the EPA to scratch at each other over the “proper” use of chemicals, and as is usually the case, the good citizenry is hung in the middle—taking to the sidewalks to sleep at night because sleeping quarters are uninhabitable. Now the Centers for Disease Control and, I kid you not, the Department of Defense are involved in the crisis.  

I know, at first glace and from up on a cleanliness pedestal, filth comes to mind. You may want to hop on down, because this is a problem for any one of us who doesn’t reside in a hermetically-sealed bubble. One can pick them up in just about any public place, and bring a happy bedbug couple to reside and start a family in their dream home: your bed.

Back in the day when pesticides were pesticides (I know some have been proven harmful, but in my humble opinion the pendulum has swung too far the opposite direction. Save the hate-mail for someone smarter than me.) DDT wiped out this nuisance in the developed world.

Since about 1995, they’ve been re-emerging: resistant to DDT and any other weenie-fied chemical we now have at our disposal. Some statistics show the infestation doubled between 1995 and 2001 and that the bedbug population has continued to grow as more pesticides used to counter other pests while peripherally killing bedbugs were removed from the arsenal.  

Luckily, extensive lab testing shows that bedbugs are not likely to pass disease from one human to another. However, they can be extremely harmful to mental health. I know some of you are already in a panic and will no doubt soon be suffering from delusional parasitosis, whereby you’ll be certain you are infested with a parasite that isn’t present.

I suppose the world just isn’t right unless we have a certain level of paranoia to contend with. I sometimes lie awake at night wondering what to obsess over next. I bet you’ll do it now, too. Good night, sleep tight; don’t let the bedbugs bite!

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

It’s that time again

Author: natalie  //  Category: Life with children

Eleven short weeks ago this mother of three school-aged children was ecstatic over trading hectic schedules for the less rigorous days of summer. But today, dear friends, I sit equally as delighted that in just over twenty four hours the 2010-2011 school year will begin. I’m fickle that way. My sanity stays precariously balanced on a time-spent-with-offspring continuum.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy sharing days with the ones I love, but we’ve reached the saturation point. In short, we’re getting on each other’s nerves.

With three sets of everything to keep up with over and above myself, each new year presents challenges. But the bright side is watching my babies — two of which tower over me and have facial hair, the other will be looking me in the eye in no time — grow and mature through new experiences. (I just realized as I typed that last sentence: They are progressing, and I seem to be regressing. Oh my. That will have to be a discussion for another day, but thank you for bringing about that realization.)

This year will be full of firsts and lasts. I suppose in many ways each year is, but for this year our milestones are big. I’m bound to shed a tear, or maybe two million. The good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise: My oldest will graduate from high school. (That boy knows I love him to the ends of the earth, but he and I have rarely seen eye-to-eye on educational matters. I’m certain our relationship will improve a thousand-fold when he dons his cap and gown.) The middle child will spend his last year in junior high while the baby girl is just getting started there.  (If you see Jeremy around town, ask him how excited he is to be attending school once again on the same campus as his little sister. He can barely contain his emotions.)

Me, I’m just ready for them to get out of my house. Goodness, that sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Of course I don’t mean forever, just during the day so I can get back to my routine. It’s sort of sad how accustomed to being alone I have gotten. I found myself getting annoyed having to prepare my lunch with others in the kitchen.  Beside the fact that I was lunching while they were foraging for breakfast, I’m used to having all the counter and moving around space I want. It wasn’t such an issue when they were small, but now, they take up some real estate and we sort of get in each other’s way.  Oh, and they’re teen-aged moody. Not good when standing near me and sharp implements. I get ideas beyond slicing tomato.

Don’t worry, though, it’s said absence makes the heart grow fonder, so I’ll be back to adoring their cherubic faces as soon as their not in mine all day.

Hope everyone has a great start to the new school year!

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Appreciation is cool

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

Turn the thermostat down, grab an icy-cold beverage, and have a seat. You’re in for a cool, relaxing treat.

As luck would have it, today not only marks the start of Air Conditioning Appreciation Week, but August 15 is also National Relaxation Day. I imagine you weren’t aware of either of these commemorative occurrences because to be honest I’d never heard of them, either. Desperation of a columnist with a heat-fried brain and a deadline often dredges up such things.

I don’t know about you, but I hold my air conditioning in very high regard for about 9 months out of the year. Here in these parts where we endure high temperatures often coupled with extreme humidity, a mere week of honor doesn’t seem to suffice. But since it’s a special time for my appliance, I’ll be sure to visit both the indoor and outdoor components and let them know how grateful I am for the fine service provided. Maybe I should buy a card.

And since today is National Relaxation Day we can all get away with lounging around in the cool air conditioning while doing an activity that eases our stressed souls – even if said activity is doing nothing over and above being conscious.  It’s the perfect Sunday combination, but only after reading this first, of course.

As Google aided in my travels through vast amounts of information, I learned that air conditioning for the sake of human comfort is—relatively speaking—fairly young. It got going in a few fits and starts in the early 1900s and went way down on the priority list through the Great Depression and World War II. But in the post-war boom of the 1950s it took off and led the way for migration to the Sunbelt. By 1966, Texas was the first state to have more than half of its homes equipped with climate control. 

Almost one-hundred years ago a young engineer, Willis H. Carrier (also known as The Father of Cool), sat waiting for a train on a foggy night and began pondering the problem of temperature and humidity control. He had a ‘flash of genius’ which are the formulas still used today as the basis in all fundamental calculations used in the air conditioning industry.

Yes, I studied Carrier’s famous “Rational Psychrometric Formulae”. Feel free to assume I understood every bit of it. I’ll assume you’d rather I not bore you with the details. In the end, all that matters is that I love the man for what his mind gave us. He didn’t invent the first system used to cool an interior structure, but his ended up being the first truly successful one which started the science of modern air conditioning.  Sadly, Willis Carrier died in 1950 just as his work was on the cusp of becoming a mainstay in American homes.

In closing, a very special thanks to The Big Guy for creating me AFTER air conditioning was invented. And thanks, too, for the person who had the cool idea of Air Conditioning Appreciation Week and having it coincide with the melting of my mind. I appreciate that.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Silver lining is the new black

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

Because I visit the salon chair of Mrs. Sharon Saenz on a very regular basis to keep my tresses not the shade nature is intending, I couldn’t ignore the onslaught of recent articles extolling the wisdom, virtue, and current fashion savvy associated with gray hair.

Bear with me for a moment as I delve into a bit of cliché. Apparently, gray is the new black. But since we’re talking hair color, what I’ve been led to believe is that gray is the new blonde. Maybe some of you who have done both can report which was more fun.

I’ve been fighting my hair’s natural progression of fine textured, dark-honey brown to wiry, dead-rat gray for just over a decade. I could get excited over the change if what my hair was morphing into wasn’t so . . .  well, there’s no other word I can find to describe it besides hideous. You know I would never exaggerate.  

It appears that a metallic head is now a fashion must-have. For the first time — ever — I find myself able to be on the leading edge of a trend and could sport my au naturel self while claiming to be the pinnacle of sophistication and style. But I don’t really want to go there. I’m caught between a bottle of hair dye and showing my true colors.

In the name of liberating those who color their gray, proponents of this movement claim dyeing is a disturbing addiction that robs untold numbers of money and time as they chase youth and shun reality.  What do I know? I just bought a red sports car and it is has already taken me to a hair-color appointment.  

The fad is so white-hot that younger people who haven’t sprouted any gray yet are intentionally causing their hair to take that hue. Pardon me, but it just doesn’t look right. Spooky comes to mind. Plus, it tricks our senses into thinking someone is more mature and sensible than they really are. Life experience is a much slower process than apply, let sit for thirty minutes, and rinse.

In the end, I stumbled across a little tidbit that caused the whole tangle to make perfect sense: The fashion industry is reeling from the economy. High-end designers are now in the position of having to be more relatable to the consumer. Simply stated, they’re desperate.

Gray-haired, “mature” (and GASP! “curvy”) models were spotted on the runways in New York, London, Paris, and Milan in April. “Mature” women, bent on making better spending decisions, will not risk on what may not be suited to them. It’s sort of a shame it took such drastic measures for this change to occur.

So, my new black as I deal with gray in a way that suits me will be to see the silver lining of making it far enough for gray hair to be an issue and for not having much bigger things to worry over at present.  And if genetics are an indicator, I’ll have some pretty, silvery-white white hair in about twenty years.

Until then, I must pass through this awful in-between stage. No matter what color my locks carry, I’ll try to be as authentic as I possibly can. And when I’ve earned the degree of wisdom, virtuosity, and style savvy to sport the silver medal of self acceptance, I will wear it proudly . . . just not today.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

From the frying pan to the fire

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

As my deadline approached and before official numbers could be tallied, our area was seriously vying to beat a July rainfall record set back in 1900 mere weeks before a massive hurricane nearly wiped Galveston off the map.

I thought the wet stuff seemed more plentiful lately, but didn’t give it much thought because it was a welcomed relief from the heat. Too bad we’re making up for that break by way of mosquito, but I complained about them a couple of weeks ago, so I’ll move along.

With so much opportunity in the air, I twice witnessed what I now know to be an unusual meteorological phenomenon: sun showers. We don’t typically call them that here in the South, so you may or may not have heard the term. It’s easy enough to figure out, though, and is simply a rain shower occurring while the sun is shining.

In the midst of one of those occurrences, I mentioned it and asked the person to whom I was speaking, “What’s up with that?”

“The devil is beating his wife!”

Wow. Echoed my thoughts exactly, but it had been ages since I’d heard that old saying. I’d be afraid to say it out loud today for a host of reasons, but that’s a topic for another day.

The disturbing phrase was one I heard from peers many times growing up and obviously it stuck with me. I didn’t really understand it then, and not sure I do now, but I gave it a thorough look-see in an effort to broaden all of our horizons.

Usage is scattered around the globe. It’s unclear where the expression originated, but here in the United States it’s fairly confined to the southern region with particular concentration in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana. And there are regional variations. While many expand the phrase to indicate either the angels or the wife crying, some also say he’s beating her with a frying pan or around a stump. 

But the ones that really made me chuckle (and wince) were those that elaborated on the reasons behind the alleged beating. To some, it seems she was in trouble for burning the biscuits (Texas) or the rice (clearly, Louisiana).  I’m offended.

Someone needs reminding that the devil’s home hath no fury like a woman scorned. If he was whipped up in that type of frenzy over the way his food was prepared, why, I’d have turned around, jumped up on that stump and shown him a thing or two with that frying pan! I wonder what sort of freakish weather that would produce? Food for thought.

The weather nerds are all saying our temps this weekend will hit the triple digits as this rain event clears out and high pressure settles over us. I suppose I’ll put that frying pan down since Mother Nature is throwing us all in the fire.  But it was fun watching the devil sweat!

© 2010 Natalie Whatley