Sedation better than shopping

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas, Holidays, National

One holiday down. I bet most of you have come out of the Thanksgiving-food coma, but I’m happily still sedated. Don’t worry. I did it on purpose as it’s my preferred state this time of year.

I thoroughly enjoy holiday get-togethers and spending time with extended family. However, I hate shopping. Period. Any time. And the shopping atmosphere during the holidays: loathe entirely. Even the music gets on my nerves. Do I sound Grinchy? Good. That’s what I was aiming for.

I’m not sure when or how I turned so sour on the holiday season, but I am concerned that my awful attitude will grow and I’ll be an old, bitter, nasty woman who no one will want to be around. Oh my. How sick is it that that almost sounds like a good plan? Hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to get a little peace and quiet.

Kidding aside—and maybe there is more than a slight possibility I wasn’t kidding— why does it take so much stuff to celebrate? Yes, I’m a mom. I get it. It’s incredible to behold the sparkle in a young child’s eye as he experiences the magic of Christmas, but I’m a firm believer in “less is more”. Trust me when I say that sweet little cherub will one day be a hormonal teenager. Save some of that wanting to “give ‘til it hurts” in reserve . . .  you’re going to need it.

Anyway, getting back to our compulsion for over-the-top consumerism, I’d just like to buy myself a little sanity and tranquility for the holiday season. Then I’d be fully equipped to give respect, common courtesy, a helping hand, a smile, and even the benefit of the doubt that underneath that crabby lady who elbowed her way to snatch the last whatsit from my weary hands is under normal circumstances a decent human being.

My bah-humbugness aside, people I love would be disappointed if I didn’t hop on the runaway holiday freight train, so I will join the masses and do my part in keeping retailers merry. And because I know many of you will be there with me, I’d like to remind everyone of a few things.

The Baytown Police Department’s Crime Prevention Office doesn’t want the spirit of giving lulling us into providing opportunities for crooks.

Park in well lit areas and make note of where you parked. Upon returning to your vehicle, have your keys ready. (Ladies, this is NOT the time to be digging through your purse.)

If you will be shopping several stores, hide previous purchases in the trunk or somehow place items of value where they are not visible by a passerby.

If possible, don’t shop alone. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Carry purses close to the body and avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Also, don’t overburden yourself with packages.

Remember if you’re stressed out and in a hurry you’re more likely to become careless and unwittingly assist a real Scrooge. I know . . . IF?  Be careful out there, my friends.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Going dark for a spell

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

Even though I’ve been through the whole daylight saving time change many times over in my lifetime, I’m always amazed at how mere mortals moving clocks affects me. This year I decided to withhold judgment and give the switch a couple of weeks before I sang its praises or complained. Regarding the subject, I’ve done both in the past depending on what life was dishing out at the time.  

Circadian rhythms —albeit controlled to some degree in modern times by a clock—are ingrained in us for a reason. And we all know what is said about messing with Mother Nature. However, adjustments must be made to account for seasonal changes.

After studying how daylight saving time started and why, along with the subsequent legislative tinkering with the process through the Energy Policy Act of 2005, I came to the conclusion that we’re all lab rats.

Seriously, a bunch of egg-heads sat around and decided toying with timekeeping was for the collective best. The reasons for the change are bigger than any one of us, and there are still disagreements on whether or not tinkering with the hours of the day really accomplishes anything. But I suppose someone had to do it and force us all on to sort of the same page – can’t have everybody doing their own thing, can we?

Since I’m a glass-half-full kind of girl, I’m working hard to appreciate the benefits of early darkness. It’s difficult in that I love and need plenty of sunshine to thrive – get a wee bit grumpy without it. OK, more than a wee bit, but I will adapt. Do I have a choice? I understand the answer is, “no”, and in child-like defiance I usually pout and squeal my through this time of year.

However, I admit that right now I like having the early-darkness excuse to close up the proverbial shop and call it a day while the clock would still allow labor. The only thing that would make it better is if I could somehow finagle going to bed shortly thereafter as I find myself drowsy when the sun goes down. Of course I’d be wide awake at 3:00 a.m. after my body decided it had rested long enough; that could be a problem.  But I’d still be happy to cross that bridge if and when I got to it.

For this year, I will retreat, sing the praises of falling back, and enjoy it and the different scenery it affords me. Being a creature of long-standing habit gets pretty boring anyway and I was ripe for embracing something different. 

I imagine by the time this begins to wear on me spring will be upon us, and I’ll be fully appreciative of longer light having gone through darkness. Somehow that seems like the way it’s supposed to be.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

I didn’t turn right

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas, It's all about me

Running up to Election Day when the fate of our red-light cameras would be decided, I listened to quite a bit of discussion about driving—specifically the drivers sharing the streets of our fair city. Folks had strong opinions and often used colorful language in describing others’ driving abilities or lack thereof.

Recall that a little over a year ago I announced placing one of the flashing contraptions at the intersection of Natalie Street and Whatley Drive because I was in need of some external control. I made huge profits off myself. Now I’m awaiting specific instructions on its removal. But I digress.

All of us despise the flagrant red-light runner who pulls such a stunt because he or she can, endangering innocents, but discussion has proven people see many shades between black and white on the topic. In the end we must all use our gray matter when behind the wheel. And if said gray matter isn’t fully up to the task, maybe staying home is in order.

Recently I was among the ranks of bone-headed drivers and driving while distracted. While I didn’t run a red light or a stop sign, I failed to follow standard operating procedure after coming to a complete halt at a four-way stop.

Enjoying catchy tunes and some very pleasant weather through rolled down windows and an open sun roof, I pulled up to a stop sign focused on the car just opposite me. I failed to look to my left, but took off and turned that direction anyway.

Apparently, it wasn’t my turn.  How embarrassing; most of the time I have better manners than that.  And I thoroughly appreciate the other driver’s full attention as I know we would’ve endured a slight collision had it not been for her supreme diligence.  

Through her driver’s-side window I saw the vivid animation of one using the full range of the rainbow to express her feelings. Had she not thrown both hands in the air signaling her absolute disgust with my transgression, I may have been able to read her lips. (For the record: I felt it was all a little over-the-top in a punishment-didn’t-fit-the-crime kind of way.) In passing, I clearly annunciated an “I’m sorry” and plastered on my best sheepish look.

There are many things that can steal a driver’s attention: other passengers, a slew of technology and in my case, the very brain we all need to operate a motor vehicle. Like my careful-driving brethren, I make a concerted effort to follow the rules of the road. I had a lapse, and I would claim it was only momentary if I could, but honestly I don’t know how long my mind was absent.

All I know is that I didn’t turn right and that far worse than a potential traffic citation or minor accident was the thought that I angered another human being to the point of flashing a theatric performance I saw fit to forever memorialize.  To this unknown thespian:  my deepest apologies. And it’s a shame it wasn’t all captured by camera; you’d be a star!

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

There are words

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

As a self-professed first-born stick in the mud, I was recently surprised by deep feelings of intrigue over a new-to-me concept I would typically consider flighty. The artsy and more literary than me will no doubt be amused over my late bloomery. (The preceding is not an actual typo. Bloomery: a place in which malleable iron is produced from iron ore. I’m all about strength coupled with adaptability.)

Approaching four decades of life, my creative side began painfully birthing itself—much appreciation to those of you still holding my hand in the delivery room. Sadly, I’m known for long labors and ensuing surgical intervention. No, the baby hasn’t arrived.  Yes, professionals may be needed to intervene.

French essayist and poet Charles Baudelaire penned the following in “The Painter of Modern Life” (1863): “For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—such are a few of the slightest pleasures of those independent, passionate, impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define.”

First, I’m always amazed at how so much of “modern” stays the same through time. The environment changes; the human condition does not.

Second, wow.  For an introvert like me, observing is not a second-rate choice behind participating. Staying out of the scene while still in it inspires me. I’m a passionate observer. Among, yet alone. Just the way I like it—free to watch, to think, and enjoy all the nuances. And the perfect end to that is a good solid chunk of solitude to recharge my batteries.

Extroverts, energized by outside activity, find that bizarre if not bordering on mental illness. But in the words of the wise spinach-consuming Popeye, “I am what I am.”

There aren’t words to illustrate how great it was to find that I had been doing something my entire life that couldn’t be explained in my native tongue because there wasn’t an English word for it. That’s fitting because, well, most days what wanders through my mind is indescribable in a quirky, quite possibly boring-to-others kind of way.

English has no equivalent for flâneur, or the feminine flâneuse. The literal English translation is “idler or loafer”. That’s quite an insult and not at all Baudelaire’s “passionate spectator”.  

Now that I have a fancy, floral-sounding word I’m going to practice the art of flâneurie, or strolling about without aim, a little more. You can do it, too: give yourself open stretches of time, go somewhere new, assume the perspective of a child and see everything in a state of newness.

Enjoy being a flâneur or flâneuse and enjoy some late bloomery with me. And if we’re accused of “idling” or “loafing”  . . .  we’re blossoming!

© 2010 Natalie Whatley