Feeling foggy

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

I must make you all aware that my fellow columnist, the great Jim Finley, does not have the market cornered on mentioning our fine weatherpersons. I have listened to them going on and on about the fog we have experienced as of late. One night, it was proclaimed that we were in for a record fifth night of the soupy mix with the possibility of more beyond that. Queue the doomsday music.

Bill Watterson, cartoon genius behind the popular Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, once said, “The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure pure reasoning, and to inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!”  Oh boy. How true. It’s takes special skill to inflate weak ideas, and I’m almost a master. And I can obscure pure reasoning as well as inhibit clarity, thus the reason I wanted to talk about fog.

I’ve made no secret about being on a strange journey since exiting what I considered the most labor-intensive childrearing years. Of course I’m still on duty or maybe just on call with three teens, but my role has drastically changed and so have I.

I remember back in the day when I controlled almost all the details of their young lives. Now, I control very little. It’s terrifying and invigorating all at the same time. It’s also painful . . . in a rebirth kind of way. I’ve grown weary from the labor pains, and would like to see the new baby to be named “My Life” even though she promises to arrive with the requisite feedings and dirty diapers. I just thought I was through with that, but I’m battle trained through three tours. I will survive. 

Anyway, it’s probably a little vain speaking of this strange phenomenon, but the weather mimics me. And I have been in a fog of sorts. Funny thing about fog: While standing in it, things immediately surrounding look crystal clear, but try casting your vision farther than a few inches and  . . . an infinite wall of haze. Recall that I’m a planner – a certifiable (of the fit-to-be-declared-insane variety) “looker aheader”.  Frustrating!

Of course there are long spans when the fog burns off and I can see as far as my eyes will allow. However, it’s a cruel twist that I’m allowed vision only to have it severely clouded once again, paralyzing navigation.  That qualifies as fogbound.

The safest thing to do in such conditions is to pull off the road and wait for clarity or in the very least try using less light. What’s an impatient, shine-a-big-light-on-the-situation soul like me to do? I’m in no mood to stop or use the low beams.

Can I take some comfort from the weatherpersons who say our recent plentiful fog is rare, and won’t be seen again for a long time? I know what Jim Finley would say. Suppose I’d better learn to drive myself through it.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Getting busy

Author: natalie  //  Category: National

I bet none of you knew today, Sunday, February 20, 2011 would be so hectic. Sundays are all about rest and rejuvenation, but there’s no time for resting on our laurels today. This could be the busiest day you’ve had all year. I certainly didn’t see it coming.

Consult your local television guide for time (my satellite guide is easy enough for a monkey to use, but alas I still don’t know how to work it)because today 43 of the best stock-car drivers in the world will compete in “The Great American Race”, NASCAR’s most prestigious event, the Daytona 500. (I bet a bunch of you thought I didn’t care about such things. I don’t, but I live with a couple of gear-heads and it was brought to my attention that it has been 10 years since Dale Earnhardt lost his life in the event. Wow. I remember that, and time surely does fly.) I personally can watch cars go in circles for about 2.4 seconds before I lose interest.

If racing doesn’t make your wheels turn, today is Cherry Pie Day. It’s pretty self explanatory, and I happen to love cherry pie. You know where to find me if you decide to appropriately celebrate. I take mine with Blue Bell’s Homemade Vanilla on the side.

It’s also Hoodie Hoo Day. I’m sure you’ve never heard of it because I am a repository of useless knowledge, and I had never run across such silliness. Anyway, it’s a day to officially chase away winter and bring in spring. I’m all for that. The celebratory ritual calls for all of us to go outside at noon, wave our hands in the air and chant, “Hoodie Hoo!” Sounds suspiciously like “loony tune” . . .  But who am I to judge?

And I saved the best for last (The NASCAR fans may disagree): Today is Love Your Pet Day. I’m hoping you’re all catching this announcement early and will have many hours to shower your beloved critter(s) with affection and their favorite treats.

Just last week I was at Cedar Bayou Animal Clinic visiting with the wonderful Dr. Mat Dobbs as Scooter and Shadow were due for annual exams and shots. The slightly overweight Shadow is a young, stealthy squirrel-hunting machine.  I hung a bell around his neck to alert my cute rodent friends, to no avail. I fear that one day the squirrels are going to gang up and make a fine, fur-lined nest out of “Killer”. Time will tell.

Scooter, on the other hand, is now among the ranks of the senior citizenry — has the gray hair, arthritis and clouding eyes to show for it. It’s hard for me to believe he’s been a member of our family for 10 years. We adopted him from the city’s animal shelter back in 2001 because our then four-year-old son had been carrying around a ripped-in-half plastic fishing worm as his “pet”.

Turned out Scooter sensed I was the hesitant party in the pet-acquiring process. He has been at my feet proving his undying devotion all day, every day since we brought him home. I imagine he thinks I hadn’t noticed. So, I’ll forgo the roundy-round racing, pie and chanting away winter like a nut. I’ve got to get busy making sure Scooter knows I love him, too!

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Straight from the heart

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, National

Because I aim to provide some service through my silliness and knowing some guys have forgotten or procrastinated until now: Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. The mere mention makes males the world over shudder. I imagine that’s especially worse here in our Western culture where “goods” are held in high regard. Anyway, you’ve been notified. In writing. Happy shopping.

In light of the heartfelt holiday, I thought I’d share something that’s unknown about me. I’m sure it’s hard for you to believe after all I’ve shared in this little corner of the newspaper that I’d have any secrets left. It’s hard work maintaining an air of mystery in such a situation, but somehow I’ve managed.

Anyway, what you don’t know because I keep it well hidden is that at my very core I’m a mushy, gushy romantic. (Please keep this between us; I can’t have everyone knowing about my soft underbelly.) And I chose the eve of what’s “supposed” to be the most romantic day of the year to make this confession because tomorrow is just another day to me. All the commercial, frilly, frou-frou fluff: silly. A seeming contradiction? Maybe.  I’m full of them. But that, you already knew.

Before you start thinking that I forgot to pack my inner Scrooge away with the Christmas decorations, allow me to submit that I have paid (with the giver’s hard-earned money, of course) the credit card bills containing costly Valentine’s flowers and waited ridiculously long times in restaurants to “properly” celebrate.  Call me strange, but not exactly my definition of a good or romantic time. And I want to know I’m loved and love others on any old ordinary day . . . not just because we felt obliged to express it on yet another over-commercialized date on the calendar.

Because feelings at my house would be hurt if I totally ignored the festivities (I’m sensitive to those who don’t share my views), I do my part in helping the economy by purchasing some of the day’s accoutrements. However, I don’t expect it in return and honest to goodness don’t get my nose out of joint over it. It’s really not important to me. I know, men have been warned to be VERY suspicious of my kind . . . “It’s a trick!” No, I like to think it’s a treat for those who love me. And of course they are free to shower me with gifts and/or loving sentiments the other 364 days of the year.

Do I begrudge those who place high importance on the day? Absolutely not.  The sweetest thing about love is knowing what makes your beloved’s heart beat (or not) and specifically aiming Cupid’s arrow. Some of us are good shots while others miss the mark.  And maybe that’s how all of this got started: A day to spray shoot all our arrows and pray one hits the bull’s-eye.

There’s an easier, and I’d wager cheaper, way. It can be a win-win and we are all equipped with the proper investigative tools: eyes, ears, and a mouth. (Remember we were given two ears and one mouth . . . listen twice as much as you speak.) Know the object of your affection and every day will be Valentine’s Day.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

It’s Stupor Goal Sunday!

Author: natalie  //  Category: National

Oh my gosh! Or OMG! For the more youthful among my readership. I can barely contain myself. It’s Stupor Goal Sunday!

I apologize if you’re a crazed football fan already offended by my taking the name of the holiest of all NFL holidays in vain, but know that I am an admitted, complete idiot when it comes to football and to be honest, sports in general.  Of course I’m capable of learning, but the fact of the matter is: I don’t want to. Sometimes it’s just plain fun to revel in one’s own ignorance. And it annoys know-it-alls, which is entirely too much fun to pass up.

Anyway, isn’t the whole point of this fine day to suspend ourselves in a state of reduced cognitive function by staring into a large electronic screen while eating and drinking ourselves silly? (I did my research.  Today’s food and beverage consumption is only trumped in the U.S. by Thanksgiving Day.) It’s not hard to do, and even we lesser football idiots succumb.

As a little background on my lack of knowledge: I’ve watched my own boys run up and down the gridiron, but most of my pigskin education comes from one of my all-time favorite movies: “The Waterboy”.  I’ll pause and allow you to groan, but come on, what’s not to love about Kathy Bates’ “the foosball is the devil!” and Henry Winkler’s slightly neurotic rendition of a football coach? And Adam Sandler . . .  just makes me laugh. Although clueless, I can still enjoy today and all of its splendor.

I’ll watch the game because the commercials will be awesome. Sure, the cost of a snippet of the airtime is enough to support a third-world country for a year (didn’t research this point, so don’t quote me), but companies go all out in developing ads they assume will bring the most bang for their buck.  And I find them rather amusing in an absurd kind of way.

And then there’s the half-time show.  Yes, I saw (well, not really) the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” a few years ago. While I understand many found it in poor taste, I thought the ensuing hubbub was a colossal waste of time. I mean, I blinked and missed it. The men folk in my house did not, but there was a, “Did I just see what I think I saw?” Millions of viewers probably uttered (or maybe excitedly exclaimed) the same words, but you have to admit we shined a big ole spotlight on it – making a mountain out of  . . . never mind.  We let far worse things observed by our peepers slide every day.

But the real reason I must include myself in all the fun and frivolity are the chips and dips, because like the gorgeous Fergie, who will perform with the Black-Eyed Peas during half-time today, I only allow 7-layer dip to cross my lips on this one sacred day.  I’m disciplined that way.  And because you’re all no doubt already in a trance, you’ll believe that. That’s one score for me in the Stupor Goal!

© 2011 Natalie Whatley