Remember our patriots

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, National

It’s as American as apple pie. Some would even argue it has become a recreational sport. I’m not sure if I should be proud or ashamed to be darn good at it and proclaim I would have the fastest mouth if not for my southern drawl. I refer to our collective love for bemoaning our individual busyness.  Admit it. It’s a favorite pastime when we gather in groups. And I’m as guilty as any.

With that confession, I’d like to state here on this Memorial Day weekend that I’m eternally grateful for all the men and women who died in the service of this country so that I can enjoy the freedom to be busy at whatever I choose. I never forget that freedom of choice comes with a heavy price that is still fought for and paid today. And while I have no specific plans set for tomorrow, I’ll be pausing my chosen activity or inactivity at 3 p.m. for a few moments of remembrance. I hope you’ll do the same.

That 3 p.m. local-time pause was brought about in a year 2000 resolution entitled “National Moment of Remembrance”. Supporters of the resolution hoped to re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, which seems to have been lost in the retail and barbecue frenzy of the three-day weekend.

We’re asked to “voluntarily and informally observe in our own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever we are doing”. That’s the least each of us can do when we consider what’s been given to us by brave, honorable soldiers. As a nation we used to do so much more to observe the day. Have we forgotten?

And what happened to the red poppies? I remember seeing them when I was a child. Maybe I’m not hanging around in the right places or with the right crowd, but I don’t recall seeing them anywhere in recent years. It used to be tradition for them to be worn on Memorial Day and the sales by local VFW’s helped support programs benefitting the families soldiers left behind.

“They fell, but o’er their glorious grave floats free the banner of the cause they died to save.” –Francis Marion Crawford

Don’t let this weekend pass without spending some time reflecting on what it took to gain the freedom you enjoy. And better yet, pass on the true meaning of Memorial Day to children so that they may also learn to have an appreciation for the cost of freedom and the price paid by people from a different place in time.

Soldiers who turn their lives over to the service of their country recognize something bigger than themselves, and so should we. Remember the patriots who made our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness in whatever makes us busy possible.

 © 2011 Natalie Whatley

May endings? Maybe

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

It’s been one of those weeks. I even had to use a sick day –after I was duly reminded that moms get them, too. Plus, my body forced my hand and simply refused to cooperate on the to-do list. Missing that one day threw my whole already-busy week out of whack.  I persevered, but you’ll likely not see the fruits of that here.

On that day of supposed rest, I didn’t even feel like holding a book. My mind wouldn’t settle enough for sleep, so I attempted what I thought would be the next best thing and turned on the television. My, my. Three-hundred some-odd channels delivered to my home via satellite and not a thing worth watching mid-day. Long story short: not much rattling around in my head that I much feel like prattling on about. But I skimmed the surface of a couple of things.

First off, if your newspaper was delivered and you’re reading this, Harold Camping of Oakland, California’s Family Radio will be cleaning egg off his face, again. According to Mr. Camping, the world came to an end yesterday at 6 p.m. sharp— precisely 7,000 years to the day after the Great Flood that spared Noah and his Ark. He and his supporters purchased signs all over the world warning that the end was near. He made a similar prediction in 1994. Best I can tell mankind is still here.

Goodness, I’d almost hate to be wrong about this man, poke fun, and possibly suffer eternal damnation, but others have come before him making such claims, and I’m always reminded of the passage in the Bible that says, “No man can know the day or hour” when the end on Earth will come. Not one of us is guaranteed a tomorrow. Does it matter if we all go at the same time? Sure, I’d like my little cherubs grow up and be tormented by children just like themselves, but things such as these are out of our control.

The next thing that got me to wondering, since I am due to attend one today:  What exactly is a high school baccalaureate service? (A little embarrassed to have asked that publicly, but I’m sure I’m not alone.) I remember my own, but in typical 18-year-old-graduate fashion I was so in awe of wearing the cap and gown, knowing I was almost DONE with the requisite public education, that I really didn’t pay attention.

I’m ashamed to admit that. What can I say? Don’t we all have the world by the tail at that age? I had loftier ideas (hey, it’s relative!) floating around my noggin. I was looking around seeing how the other girls incorporated the cap into their BIG 80s hairdos, or something like that.  Important stuff when commencement followed the next week.  I’d never see some of those folks again – wanted to leave a good last impression.

Anyway, turns out, it was pretty much what I thought: A celebration honoring a graduating class whereby speakers of all kinds address the graduates. The service usually has a religious slant. Many public schools have done away with the service as “separation of church and state” has been cited.

I also learned that while we still have the services locally, they are not nearly as well-attended as they have been in the past. Seems a shame that end has come.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Eye like it!

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

I often feel I was born in the wrong era. Ever-changing technology is sometimes the bane of my existence. Gadgets that are supposed to make my life simpler, in a word . . . don’t.

But something once only seen in science fiction became reality in areas needing top security and has now trickled down to the average consumer for home use. Better yet, it’s potentially affordable with its $99 price tag. (I use “potentially” because with gas prices going like they are other things —food and basic shelter come to mind—may take priority.)

This past week New York-based Hoyos Group unveiled EyeLock – the first and only portable iris-scanning device. I know you’re wondering what in the world any of us ordinary folks would need with such equipment, but please hear me out.

Of course identity theft has become a huge problem and something all of us must think about; this technology can make it much harder for hackers to reach sensitive information. While that no doubt makes me smile, it was yet another “perk” that caused me to investigate further.

While I don’t conduct my entire life online, it’s become close. Doing so has caused me to create user names and passwords in innumerable places. And I know better than to write them all down in a handy place for would-be ne’er do wells to wreak havoc and equally as important not to use the same password for everything. I know some of you techno smarty pants are saying, “There are apps and/or software for that”, but I’m just not interested. Stubborn does not begin to describe me in this regard.

Thankfully, The Big Guy blessed me with an incredible memory, and I have committed it all. It’s a lot. Be very impressed. It’s my own little parlor trick, but it has caused me to take up valuable space in a noggin that’s just about reached its storage limit. I need to free some space for higher-level items. Thus the reason I was thrilled by this newly-available-to-me technology.

The portable iris-scanning device, the size of a standard business card and weighing a mere four ounces, comes in the form of a USB drive. A program is installed on the computer and users decide which applications they’d like to protect. A wand-like scanner held in front of the eye will automatically log me in.  How great is that? I don’t ever forget to have my eyeballs with me.

Of course this whole thing probably invokes thoughts of some pretty gruesome crimes, but Hoyos representatives say our irises go flat upon death which will not result in a positive scan allowing computer entry. I hope criminals are aware of that fact. Manufacturers of similar technology have admitted that “live-tissue verification” has been a “concern”. Could some of these machines be duped by high-quality photography? Progress and research are ongoing.

Other companies working with similar technology hope to place in iris-recognition devices in banks and at ATM machines. And law enforcement could certainly more effectively use the 2,000 points of the human iris compared to the around 18 of the fingerprint. Who knows where it will all lead, but eye think eye like it!

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Not in the prefabbed cards

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, National

Since today marks a very special day for all mothers to be honored, I spent some time searching out greeting cards with just the right sentiments for my own set of maternal figures. The major producers of such cards aim to hit every angle of motherhood and supposedly have something fit for everyone. But as I read I realized I may have created a potential problem for my own offspring. 

But first, a little history on the greeting card: The beginnings of the likes of Hallmark and American Greetings date back to civilizations from over 500 years ago. Ancient cards were simple slips of papyrus exchanged by Chinese and Egyptian cultures with wishes of fortune and goodwill.

Sometime in the 1400s the Europeans caught on to the social wave and the wealthiest among them had cards hand-delivered. Around the globe, most of the population could not afford such luxury, but in the 1840s the invention of the postage stamp gave true birth to the greeting card industry.

Today, there are seemingly endless possibilities in store greeting-card aisles and computers have even provided us the ability to customize and print a card in the comfort of our own homes. Thanks to often sappy marketing, we all know what we’re “supposed” to do and when . . . what’s polite and expected.

Looking through the lens of some of the shenanigans perpetrated by my own three darling not-so-little-anymore cherubs, I get a slight thrill out of the bullets I know they will sweat in trying to find the perfect card for their own mother.

I’m a mish-mash of all sorts of parenting styles depending on the kid and the moment, but I’ve been consistently inconsistent. That counts for something, right?

Anyway, reading card after card I wondered how my children will view me from their own adulthoods. I’m hoping history will be kind. We only get one shot and with less-than-perfect vision I’ve tried to hit the constantly-squirming target.

What memory will stand out the most as they reflect on Mother’s Day with supposed 20/20 hindsight? My best days or my worst? Kindness or anger? Smile or scowl? Sanity or lunacy?

From my perspective, all my patience and goodwill were used up back in a time they probably don’t remember. Not that I want to change the practice, but it’s sort of a shame that kids tend to leave the nest on the heels of the tumultuous teen years when angst and strife have peaked.

Only time will tell what kind of history memories will produce. If I had to guess from the midst of where I stand now—between young folks and perils they readily dismiss—I’d say all the prefabbed sweetness and light is not in the cards for my foreseeable future. But in finding greetings for my own moms, I know the day will come when the benevolent struggle will be seen with clarity and finding just the right card will be easy.

Happy Mother’s Day!

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Mayday on May Day

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! Drought, wind, wildfires, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes. I personally have my fingers crossed for no hurricanes, but praying for something in the form of a small tropical deluge. Remember, I’m weirdly attached to weather patterns. My yard and I are feeling quite parched.

Oh and today is May Day, which I thought about discussing, but we don’t much celebrate it here in the United States because we’re not ruled by socialism . . . yet.  But I slightly digress, and I’ll leave that topic for another day and more evolved minds.

And speaking of things evolving, just what is going on with the global weather? I try my best to be informed, but I’m about ready to plunge my head deeply into the sand. See, I’ve only been here a mere 40 years. Earth: Well, it has been around for much, much longer— longer than man has been able to report.

I can’t really make heads or tails out of all the information available. And a quick search led me to believe kooks are running amok with theories  . . . some affecting our very lives and livelihoods.

My mostly under-meteorologically-educated mind likes to think that this big rock we live on goes through cycles that last far longer than any man. And, considering Earth’s age we’ve really only collected a tiny amount of data. Said data can be manipulated to “fit” infinite scenarios. I won’t mince words. Some of those possibilities make me wonder why I should continue to do anything related to long-term living.  

Some are claiming that the weather has become more extreme and arguments abound over whether it’s natural or man-made. Then the focus shifts from science to conspiracy.

Is the weather that much worse than it has been in the distant (one can even find the not-so distant) past? Or has technology given us way more information and the avenues to discuss it than we are prepared to handle?

Those we deem “experts” can literally talk tornadic circles around most of us, and like sheeple we tend to take it all as the gospel truth. Next comes the outpouring of opposing viewpoints. Then it’s anybody’s guess who’s “right”. Most of the time we can’t accurately predict weather-wise what will happen in a few days, much less a few years.

Yes, we’ve come a LONG way in the last 100 years, but even the folks back then were calling for apocalyptic weather events.  I’ll go back to what I said previously: Seems these patterns outlast generations. Do we really think we can control that? And does hand-wringing and worrying over it help? I do take some comfort in being prepared with supplies, etc. It gives me some sense of control when in the back of my mind I know the possibility of events for which there are no realistic preparations exist.

Historically, climate change has been uncertain, and I’m as uncomfortable as any when it comes to uncertainty. So, I’m going to do the only sensible thing left: study up on rain dancing and get with it. I’ll chant, “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” while I perform. Sure, I’ll look quite silly, but I’ll do it for you. Here’s to hoping we can all dance in the rain soon!

© 2011 Natalie Whatley