The birth of the Osterhas

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays

I got a harebrained idea and decided to get on the Easter Bunny’s trail and work backwards to see just where he came from. I backtracked and burrowed deep. My mind is now scrambled.  If any of you are experts and spot an error, feel free to set me straight and know I tried to get it right. I’m like a moth to a flame when it comes to topics where conflicting information abounds.

To start off I learned that the Easter Bunny started out as the Easter Hare. By strict definition a hare cannot be a bunny as a bunny is a baby rabbit. Rabbits are not hares; there are differences. If you want to chase your own cotton-picking tail on the subject and how it relates, have at it. It’s a little confusing, but most agree the change to “bunny” in our modern times probably occurred because that sounded cuter and most people don’t realize rabbits and hares are not one in the same. It’s all about slick marketing.

At first glance, it appears the egg-laying bunny (I’ll get to that) has nothing to do with the Biblically-based holiday. But like many other parts of our culture, it all dates back to pre-Christian mythology somewhat melding with Christian celebrations and then morphing into one of our heavily-marketed special days. I know I make that sound not so warm and bunny fuzzy; I’m a capitalist with a more than slight disdain for commercialization. Yes, it’s a conundrum being me.

The beginnings of what we now see as Easter festivities started in 13th century Germany where feasts were held in honor of the Vernal Equinox – the beginning of spring. Of course rabbits were a great symbol of fertility and spring renewal. Plus, legend has it that German mythological goddess Ostara (Anglo-Saxon name Eostre) had a hare (Lepus) as a consort (just repeating what I read, folks). She became angry with Lepus and cast him into the heavens . . . where he became the constellation Lepus the Hare at the feet of Orion.

At some point Ostara’s anger dimmed and she gave Lepus the gift of laying eggs once a year. (Ok, I can be creative, but even I couldn’t make this stuff up!) Eventually, Christianity adopted this same time of year to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ where renewal and new life were also central themes. Traditions that had been in place prior became part of the Resurrection celebration.   

In 1680 the first published story appeared about a rabbit laying eggs and hiding them in a garden. And then, all of this lore was brought to what is now the United States by German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania Dutch areas in the 1800s. Those children had a firmly held tradition of making nests  out of bonnets and caps hidden in their homes and gardens for the “Osterhas” (that’s German for Easter Hare) to lay his colorful eggs.

As you can surely imagine, those “nests” morphed into our modern-day Easter baskets where generally children leave their own colored eggs atop plastic grass to be swapped for candy, treats, and other small gifts.  

No matter from which angle any of it is traced back, it’s all celebratory of new life and new beginnings. And that’s eggstra special!  Happy Easter!

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

No longer sounding the alarm

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you, Life with children

It’s alarming what must be done to prepare little cherubs for the rigors of the real world, and at this time I’m only too happy to do it! I have mentioned before that I have sleep issues. Sometimes when my body desperately needs some shut-eye, I just can’t perform.  Now, sleep issues of a different variety have taken me over, and today I’m sounding the alarm.

The moment when I will forever resign from the personal wake-up-call business has officially arrived. Time has run out for those who utilized my services. Per the legal requirement of my contract, this column will serve as notice by publication.

It’s spring fever season, and despite the fact that I reside with three teenagers I admit that by far I have the worst case. But since I aimed to be a responsible adult figure, I set my ailment aside and fulfilled my parental obligations. No more. Young people who have math homework I no longer understand can surely figure out an alarm clock.

Each morning for many years I’ve had myself and three others to pry from the bed —not an easy task considering my three charges are night owls. (I was one, too, way back in the day before motherhood. My own dear parents even likened me in the early morning to a stirred rattlesnake.  Now I’m ready to hit the hay no later than nine and then it’s a toss up on whether I’ll fall asleep or not. Either way, I’ve never been one to bound out of bed. I’m only highly motivated now because waking and sending cherubs off to school means I get the house to myself all day. Yes, that makes me rattle my tail and I assure you anger has no place in it!)

Years of experience tells me that the behavior pushing me to my limits hits its peak as we approach the final lap of the school year. And even though I know that this too shall pass, making ample room for me to complain about something else, I’m still handing over the torch and hanging up my angel wings.

It all starts the night before with wishes of good nights, sweet dreams, and darling not-so-little cherubs requesting morning wake-up visits at very specific times. To make my job even more difficult, the times change almost daily. It’s hard for my pea-brain to keep straight. I may have—a time or two—awakened the wrong cherub at the wrong time.

One, who shall remain nameless, has his entire day ruined if his personal clock reads one minute too early or too late upon my arrival. And he’s quite vocal about it. Takes all of a nanosecond (that’s one billionth of a second) for my angelic demeanor to turn devilish. From there I begin a triangular path between three bedrooms . . . getting meaner and more impatient with each lap.

As I’m sure is quite apparent, I didn’t read the fine print before I signed on for my twenty-plus year stint, but working conditions have just become too risky for the safety of all parties involved. So, I hereby officially declare in writing that I will no longer sound the wake-up alarm. Nor will I pen notes of excuse for any party who may arrive at school late. How’s that for alarming?

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Flutter your wings

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

It’s spring and that means butterfly season, which reminds me of a chaos theory in physics. My mind works in some strange ways, doesn’t it? I’m no expert in anything scientific, but that’s never stopped me from rambling before, so I’ll not let it impede me today.

The Butterfly Effect theory goes that the tiny motion of a butterfly flapping its wings creates a slight gust of wind that could create a hurricane on the other side of the world. More or less meaning a very small initial movement can have a significant end result. Let’s pause and ponder that for a moment.

I don’t care much about the technical stuff behind the whole butterfly migration which has supposedly been slowed a bit this year by late frosty temps well to our north, but I enjoy their beauty when I’m fortunate enough to catch a glimpse. On a particularly lucky day, one landed on my shoulder. It was an amazing moment I wish I could’ve captured in a photograph, or at least had a witness present, if only to prove that I can and do stand perfectly still when I want to.

Anyway, I’ve had a couple of recent sightings and those always have the same effect on me: lightens my mood and never fails to bring a smile to my face. But the best part is the potential far-reaching effects my brightened state has on others after the fact. Just thinking about it makes my heart go aflutter along with my imaginary wings.

The average life cycle of the butterfly only lasts about a month. What happens in that time is nothing short of astonishing. Imagine spending your entire existence constantly making changes so extreme that you’re unrecognizable at the end of your journey. Of course it’s all very symbolic of growth and transformation . . . something I wish I could endure as gracefully and maybe as quickly as the butterfly, but I digress.

What I really wanted to point out was that we can use the sight of those beautiful spring creatures as a reminder that a positive attitude, a smile, and kindness for a stranger or even a loved one can start ripples that grow into large waves. Each one of us has the ability in the chaos of the world to use tiny efforts that will grow exponentially and reach further than we could possibly see. Imagine the implications.

Flutter your wings. Show the vivid colors you earned through your own transformations. Make someone’s day. It’s quite catching and proof that there really is some predictable, beautiful order to be seen in the unpredictable chaos of life.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Don’t mess with Mother’s nature

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you, Life with children

I’m going to date myself this week. And it’s too bad because the intended audience is probably way too young to fully appreciate where I’m coming from.

Remember the Chiffon margarine commercials from the 1970s? The ones where a sweet, matronly-looking woman wearing a flowing white gown and a crown of daisies ominously declared, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” after she was duped by real-butter-tasting margarine. If that wasn’t scary enough, she then threw her arms in the air and produced a flash of lightning and a thunderous clatter.

And here I am some thirty-plus years later. She is me. I am her . . . angelic aura, white gown, floral crown, sweet as can be. That is, until I’m provoked. Let me state for the record that I consider myself a bit superior to the role actress Dena Dietrich portrayed. It takes far more than a butter substitute to awaken my wrath.

It’s that time of year —spring—when kids young and old get a bit mischievous and tired moms get testy. Strike that. I don’t need to be tired to be testy. Just play some little not-so-funny prank and watch the show! I’m going to start selling tickets.

One particularly harried day, I had after-school appointments one right after the other with plenty of time to arrive relaxed at both IF there were no glitches. (I know, betting on a big IF, but things had run smoothly for months on end.) Striving for the utmost in efficiency, I drove to the kids’ bus stop to retrieve them immediately upon disembarkment.  For the first time in ages, they were no-shows at the designated time.

Text message to Jeremy: “You on your way?”

Jeremy’s reply: “We were but the bus has a flat. We’re on the side of the road waiting.”

Of all days! Murphy’s Law, I suppose.

Text to Jeremy: “Can I come get you?”

Jeremy’s reply: “No. Driver isn’t letting anyone off the bus. We’re going to be a while.”

I won’t tell you what all was flashing through my mind, but rest assured it wasn’t spring’s butterflies and rainbows.  While uttering not-so-sweet nothings to fate I dialed appointment number one. Ok, it was only a hair appointment, BUT for a twelve year-old girl with an impossible schedule. We waited six weeks for just the right day. And if you’ve never dealt with a young lady and her hair . . . count your blessings.

Just for grins, and as I apologized for a last-minute cancellation to the very busy Hair Queen, Sharon Saenz, I thought I’d drive over and see where the bus was stopped. But wait. Said bus entered the neighborhood as I exited. How could that be? And, WOW, those GCCISD mechanics are FAST!

With Sharon still on the line I began mumbling incoherently, but managed to say I’d call her right back.

Annoyed phone call to Jeremy: “Is that your bus that just turned in?”

Jeremy’s reply:  “Yes”

My new not-a-mommy-mobile whipped around all on its own. Red (that’s my car’s name), among her many other talents, can read my mind. She took me quickly, yet safely and driving well under posted speed limits, to my darling cherubs at the bus stop.

I called Mrs. Sharon Saenz back and through loud claps of thunder and rips of lightning she was able to make out that we were coming after all. And Jeremy learned that on some days it’s not wise to mess with his mother’s sweet nature.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley