Need a vacation

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

I’m going to try and make as much sense as possible, but I’m in desperate need of some mental rest.  The old noodle is not firing on all cylinders. You may contact my fully-staffed (takes a lot of folks to run it) complaint department should you feel the need.

This week’s offering comes on the heels of seven days spent in sunny Florida with low temps in the mid 50s, highs in the low 70s, few high clouds . . . in brief, GORGEOUS! Be very envious.  I saw The Mouse and a whole lot more, but the best part was the change in scenery. To say I desperately needed it would be a colossal understatement.

Thanks to one loveable canine, it had been 9 long years since we had been away from home for any length of time. Scooter suffers terribly from separation anxiety and has never done well being away from me.  

Attempts at leaving him with family resulted in the Lynn and Linda Rowe residence having an “emergency exit” created in a screened-in patio and a front-door frame nearly chewed through after the attempted patio escape failed. They were quite kind to him—even after he damaged their lovely home.

Through his undying devotion he wanted me and no substitute would suffice. Am I a lucky girl, or what? He’s eleven and still sits at the door and cries when I leave. I’ve told him—lovingly, of course— that he’s really too old to be acting that way.

Anyway, I enlisted the help of Dr. Mat Dobbs and Crosby Boarding Kennel as I was in dire need of some time away. Scooter would have to stay behind.  The Rowes, doting grand-dog-parents to Scooter welcomed him to their home, but Jeff wasn’t so keen on making repairs upon his return.

As if Scooter’s severe attachment to me wasn’t problem enough, he has a nervous stomach. In short, if I fuss at him for any reason or heaven forbid leave him, he has “gastrointestinal issues”. I won’t elaborate. It’s every bit as bad as you imagine . . . and then some. I get the warm fuzzies just thinking about cleaning up the mess.

Dr. Dobbs started him on some medication for his tummy days prior to our departure and, well, I can’t speak highly enough about the staff at Crosby Boarding Kennels. They didn’t even laugh at me when I bawled the morning Scooter checked in.

Standing in their office and meeting them, I had no reservations whatsoever that my dear Scooter was going to receive the finest of care. But the look on his face once he was “locked up” . . .  Pardon me, someone pass a tissue. 

I’ve wished a few times that Scooter understood English and not just the inflection of my voice, but never so much as that morning. I know he sensed my distress over his distress, which surely compounded the agony over my abrupt departure. (I had to get out of there! But let it all go in the truck . . . makeup job RUINED!)

In the end and with a little help from our friends Dr. Dobbs and Crosby Boarding Kennel, Scooter and I managed just fine.  But if our activity level and inseparability in holding down the lounge chair are any indication, we need a vacation. It’s stressful being away from each other!

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Join me for some Lemmon-aid

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas, Home sweet home

Here on this first day of spring, I can’t tell you how happy I am to now be able to read Randy Lemmon in The Sun. In case you’ve missed it, the host of 740 KTRH’s Garden Line now has a column running here on Tuesdays. Fabulous addition. Kudos to whoever fertilized that idea and made it grow.

I have listened to Randy many times, and he has tried his best to impart basic lawn-care knowledge. My ignorance is no reflection of his vast abilities. He led this horse to the water hose and well, you know the rest of that story. Anyway, nice to see him in print. Maybe I’ll absorb the message better if I read, reread, and read again with a nice, cold beverage while I lounge in my chair and wish for beautiful, lush surroundings. (I bet there will be a lesson on how the lawn and garden fairy doesn’t show for little girls who sit on their behinds watching and waiting.)

This time of year my mind starts conjuring up all sorts of beautiful possibilities for the sprucing up of the flowerbeds. Given my track record, it’s a mystery why I haven’t been investigated by one of Baytown’s many garden clubs and eternally banned from landscaping attempts. Exasperation, amaryllis envy, and far too many errors in my trials have proven me an herbicidal maniac. Is it asking too much to have some lovely flora before I’m pushing up daisies?

And it’s a strange thing: Immerse me in words and the creative engine sparks, but when it comes to horticulture (and many other things for that matter) I’m a dud. So, under the guise of exercise I take off on neighborhood reconnaissance missions whereby I carefully choose the victims . . . uh, I mean the plant species . . . that I will bury in my own plot. My choices have become fewer in that I have learned to accept the limitations of my non-budding talent, but I’m still plowing through to see just how far I can push the seed-packet envelope. Not far.

It’s all a shame because genetically speaking I should be able to hold two green thumbs way up as my lineage boasts some impressive gardeners. Somehow I learned to enjoy the end result far more than the hard-work process. Suppose it’s a generational thing? What’s a girl to do? I can’t even engage in plant-related conversation without my eyes glazing over and my ears obviously don’t work in the regard, either.

I take some comfort in that I’m not a complete failure: I have plants nearly twenty years old that have somehow survived. Survival of the fittest, I suppose. Hey . . . that means I’m an expert on what won’t survive. I think I just found my horticultural niche. There may even be a radio show and book deals in my future. The list of what I can manage to kill is endless.

Anyhow, I’m rolling out a big welcome mat for Randy. Maybe he can turn me around with some printed Lemmon-aid. Or maybe I’ll just sit back and watch him do all the work. I’m good at that!

 © 2011 Natalie Whatley

Springing forward

Author: admin  //  Category: Life with children

Today should be some sort of holiday. But even though it’s not, I’m still celebrating. Picture A.A. Milne’s Tigger —hyper friend of Winnie the Pooh and fellow inhabitant of Hundred Acre Wood—whose top is made out of rubber and bottom made out of springs . . . bouncing, trouncing, flouncing, pouncing  . . . fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN! Until it gets on someone’s nerves . . .

In case you missed it: We sprang forward during the wee hours. My favorite time of year has unofficially arrived.

Next Sunday will be the official ushering in of spring with the vernal equinox — that’s the fancy name for what happens when the sun shines directly over the equator causing day and night to be nearly equal in all parts of the world. I welcome it with open arms because I’m not a good sleeper. Winter’s dark hibernation is wasted on me.  

While I don’t like the idea of losing an hour to start off, my disdain is reconciled by the knowledge that I’ll see the benefits for months to come.  And as soon as I’m over the initial shock of resetting of my body’s clock, I’ll set about the business of infecting myself with a bad case of spring fever by snorting the yellow dust already plentiful at The Whatley Estate. I know that sounds crazy, but this year I need some “cover” for puffy, red eyes as I travel through the season.

Me feeling all Tigger-ish reminded me of a young man in my house who used to wear a Tigger costume and bounce about singing “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” song followed by a cute little growl. I can still see and hear it as clearly as if it was today. How time has sprung forward since then.

We’ve ordered the cap, gown, and graduation invitations and we’re both dreaming of the late-spring day when it will be time to leap into an entirely new phase in life. I’m not sure which of us is more ready, or more excited over the prospects, but I know who will find it impossible to keep her “allergy eyes” from watering.

It has been a long, hard journey complete with flat tires, overheating, blown head gaskets, crashes, and a too-often feeling of running on empty while wondering if we’d make it to the next fueling station. But the destination is now in sight.  We’re close to answering “Are we there yet?” in the affirmative. It’s all enough to make this grown woman cry tears of profound joy — every day until the early June arrival.

So, I’m embarking upon this spring with much added bounce in my step. And to steal a word from the real Tigger, I don’t care how “redikorus” I may look, you’ll probably see me in full costume bouncing, trouncing, flouncing and pouncing while having all sorts of fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN, because the wonderful thing about my Tigger-ish kid is that he is the only bouncy, pouncy one!

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Let’s play mind games

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

Since the weather mimics the inner workings of my mind, you can all thank me for the fabulous clarity of the past week’s skies. What a pleasant change from that fogged-up mess we had the week prior.

I took the blame for all the fog and just plain yuckiness we endured here in our little corner of the world before the amazing run that led us into March. It seemed my muddled brain got us into the mess, so I figured I’d do the courteous thing and get us out.

I headed over to the Sterling Municipal Library because browsing always cheers me up as new information redirects my thought processes. Upon arrival I made my usual beeline for the new non-fiction. I don’t typically wander much beyond that close-to-the-door point even though I know there are vast possibilities beyond it.

Because hazy, gray, blah had taken me over, a sunny orange hardcover with a smiley face entitled “The Happiness Advantage” called to me in a chirpy voice. (I realize that books speaking to me is a problem which surely needs addressing, but it’s way down on the priority list.)

“Happiness” author, Shawn Achor, is a native Texan who studied at Harvard and went on to teach happiness courses there and for major corporations worldwide. I was impressed.

Something happened when I toted the book to my outdoor lounge chair and began reading:  The skies cleared, the clouds parted, and birds began to sing! Scooter and I have the tans to prove we witnessed every bit of it firsthand – for days in a row while my poor family toiled away indoors at work and school. (Thanks in advance for keeping that information our little secret. They think Scooter naps and that I sit on the couch and eat bon-bons all day while occasionally doing laundry.)

While the work goes into seven different happiness principles, the Tetris Effect was fascinating. The name came about years ago when video gamers played the “deceptively simple” block-stacking game for hours. Afterwards, players found themselves “involuntarily seeing Tetris shapes wherever they looked.”  Such repetitious games literally retrain our brains to see patterns of possibility.

Achor suggests using that kind of cognitive training to teach ourselves how to scan the world looking for the positive opportunities and ideas that will allow our success to grow. The inverse, looking for the worst in everything seems to come more naturally to many of us. Achor goes on to say that, “when our brains constantly scan for and focus on the positive, we profit from three of the most important tools available to us: happiness, gratitude, and optimism.” Who among us couldn’t stand a little more of those?

He doesn’t peddle irrational optimism, but rather a be-happy-now message. No waiting until . . . fill in your own blank. He turns a long-held belief that success precedes happiness on end and gives compelling arguments that make far too much sense not to be true; large scientific studies back him up.

While I don’t have the patience or hand-eye coordination to play Tetris, even I can take my brain out and play with it. With any luck, I won’t lose it. Let the mind games begin!

© 2011 Natalie Whatley