Three lefts made things right

Author: natalie  //  Category: Life with children

I have admitted before that today’s technology is often the bane of my sometimes pitiful existence.

This past week, in a moment of almost sheer exasperation while sitting in a snarl on the nightmare that is Interstate 45 under construction (isn’t it always?) I nearly smashed a human-sounding Garmin Street Pilot —a navigational GPS device for those even more technologically challenged than me. I’m not typically that violent, but I was having a “moment” as another crooked issue was coming to a head.

The Big Guy saw fit to bless me three times with healthy babies. And with the exception of the usual childhood maladies my kiddos have remained that way. However, we had a bit of a scare and I was in no mood to deal with a testy woman. You decide who was being testy . . . me, or her.

A routine physical for a young man who grew a foot in height in just shy of 18 months turned up a spine that looked like it was making a wrong turn. Possible scoliosis.

Of course that scared the heck out of me, but worse than that was the worry over a young man whose dream it has been to be in the U.S. military since 9/11/01.

Days shy of his fifth birthday and having seen news coverage of the devastation at the Twin Towers he patrolled our front yard with a plastic gun.

Go ahead and shoot me. I allowed my boys to play with toy guns —with caps even— and now go the range and fire the real thing alongside them.

“I’ll protect you, Mom,” he said in his Texas twang with dogged determination in the brown eyes set into a little, cherubic face.

Hands down, one of the most touching moments of my life.  And being a soldier and protecting this entire country is all he’s talked about career-wise since. He’s almost 15 now.

Even the slightest possibility that he would not be able to recognize that dream had me reeling. It’s that important to him.  And I know he was worried, too, even though it’s not in his nature to say so.

Anyway, the two of us embarked on a bit of a field trip to have the potential problem area thoroughly photographed at a Texas Children’s outpost.

Even though I pretty much knew the way to our destination I handed navigational control over to Ms. Garmin. I just didn’t have the mental capacity over my worry to bother and assumed she’d do her job and do it well.

A third of the way there she took me off in a questionable direction, but I figured with all those maps in her head she knew exactly where she was going – or possibly even a shortcut. I followed her directions dutifully.

For some unknown reason and just minutes away from where we were supposed to be going, she kept “recalculating” and I kid you not sent me on three left turns in a row. Jeremy and I got a chuckle over having been sent in a circle (actually a square) around our intended location and he even suggested I turn her off.

Problem was: all that turning had me turned around and I was lost as a goose or at least a directionally-challenged female. Ms. Garmin knew where we were, if not where we were going.

All said, between the three of us, we made it.

His spine had its picture taken and we heard back that afternoon that while he did have a slight curve it was not going to impede him in any way and was not scoliosis.

In the end I was glad I didn’t throw Ms. Garmin into oncoming traffic because we wouldn’t have made it there without her. Three lefts eventually made everything turn out right. 

 ©2011 Natalie Whatley

Game over

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

I humbly stand before you all today to confess that I have a problem. An addiction. An obsession.  

Since the outdoors in these parts has been downright unbearable in recent months, this outdoorsy girl has taken to the comforts of air conditioning and embarked upon laziness of epic proportions. And when my body isn’t moving, my brain demands some at least semi-challenging activity.

Ninety-nine percent of television programming does not interest me, so I’m left with books and the computer. (Yes, there are other human beings living in my very close vicinity—in the same house even—but the situation at the most base level is that they have a life. Apparently I don’t.)

Of course there’s plenty of housework to do, but as I approach the 15th anniversary of stay-at-home motherhood I find myself severely burned out in that regard. I do some of what’s necessary, delegate out what I can’t bring myself to do, and nothing else.

Then I’m left with too much idle time. And what’s that saying about idle minds being the devil’s workshop? I’ve become the poster child.

It was a bad time for Lex, the handsome bespectacled and bow tied green worm to inch his way back into my life. I bade him farewell some years ago when we first met. I quickly realized we were spending far too much time together. Plus, our relationship became frustrating at best as I pushed for more and he held me at bay.

Lex is the star of Bookworm, which is a word-forming computer puzzle game. Wikipedia describes play like this: From a grid of available letters, players connect letters to form words. As words are formed, they are removed from the grid and the remaining letters collapse to fill the available space. As in Scrabble, players earn more points by creating longer words or words which use less common letters.

But it goes beyond that. Some of the tiles that fall through the grid are on fire. Those have to be used quickly because if they reach the bottom something truly horrific happens: The library burns down . . .  with Lex in it. Oh, and it’s “Game Over”, too.

Sounds innocent enough and like good, clean fun, but this non-addictive personality now understands what a bad habit can do.

I’ve gone through an addiction questionnaire and answered yes to all but one. And I could only answer that one —do I have it with me at all times?—in the negative because I’m still in the stone ages with my non-internet-connected flip phone. (That’s entirely by choice and given my current state it’s probably best I leave it that way.)

Words are a huge part of my life, akin to sustenance and air. I need them to survive. What’s a girl to do? I can’t quit them cold-turkey.

When I try to read, I catch myself looking at letters on the page and rearranging them into new words . . . totally missing out on the meaning of what’s before my eyes. I do the same with street signs, store names and even license plates. Worse yet, I’m playing in my sleep! Sweet dreams aren’t made of this.

So, I’m here today admitting that I am powerless over my addiction and that my life has become unmanageable because of it. Next week, I’ll work on coming to believe that a Power greater than myself can restore my sanity.  

Sorry, Lex, but “Game Over”.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Let’s not scream over ice cream

Author: natalie  //  Category: National

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Back in 1984 President Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of July National Ice Cream Day.  Guess what today is? You got it.

Reagan recognized that ice cream was enjoyed by 90 percent of the nation’s population and that with such a thing tying most us together we should observe the day with “appropriate ceremonies and activities”.

In support of our dairy farmers and because I consider it my patriotic duty, I will overly indulge today. I’ve never needed an excuse to shove heaping spoonfuls of the creamy, cold concoction into my mouth, but today I’ll do it for a cause and without guilt.  Feel free to do the same.

Most folks have a favorite flavor —mine being mint chocolate chip—and don’t veer too far into the grocer’s freezer or from their palate’s comfort zone.  I admit to searching out my family’s favorites and ignoring the rest. And a quick search around the internet made it clear it’s probably best I stick to what I know.

Hands down Japan is the winner of weird when it comes to frozen “treats”.  Ever had a hankering for some octopus meat in a slushy cherry ice? How about raw horse flesh in vanilla ice cream? Or chicken wing ice cream? If none of those bring excitement to your salivary glands, they also have squid ink flavor (the ink actually gives it a dark charcoal color) and even fish ice cream. Seemingly that market sends a resounding “YUM!” since producers keep cranking those out, but I say YUCK!

Venezuelan ice cream makers provide a spaghetti and cheese flavor (without tomato sauce) while Italy boasts spleen (didn’t say from what) and artichoke. France comes in with caviar. DOUBLE YUCK!

I had no idea what the rest of the world’s ice cream shops were serving up when last month I was thoroughly grossed out as Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream in Columbia, Missouri made headlines over its cicada ice cream.

Sparky’s whipped up a batch of the frozen insect treat –fully cooking the rather large bugs before adding as an ingredient—and the day before its big debut they had already sold out. Faced with such demand and prepared to supply, Sparky’s management decided they’d better check with Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health before the cicadas overtook vanilla sales.

Turned out, the local food code didn’t directly address cicada preparation. Thusly, officials couldn’t exactly prohibit sales, but “advised against it”. Second-batch production was halted and I suppose someone, somewhere is disappointed over it.

The queasiness I imagine would ensue just from the sight and definitely the smell of the flavors mentioned above make the temporary brain freeze I occasionally suffer seem quite mild.

All of that said, here in the good old United States we’ve come a long way with our frozen, dairy confections since Quaker colonists introduced their recipes on this soil.

Pile your cones high. Enjoy some sweet goodness . . . let your troubles melt away, drip down your arm and puddle at your feet. And let’s not even scream over the sticky mess.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Old age gives me a headache

Author: natalie  //  Category: Issues, National

It used to be the stuff of science fiction: living to 125. Scientists now say it’s not only possible for those born today, but probable. But how about living to 1,000? And if that can be done, why stop there?

Since a little before I hit 40—what I deemed “middle aged” although it has statistically shifted forward— I have spent some time reflecting on my own mortality. I know, not the most pleasant of thoughts, but it’s part and parcel of the human experience. Thus the reason I had to read when I came across an article that caught my eye with living 125 years and then blew me away with 1,000.

When I dug deeper into the subject matter, I found that some scientists have actually been making the 1,000 claim for almost a decade. Don’t know how I missed that.

Dr. Aubrey de Grey, English author and theoretician in gerontology (study of social, psychological, and biological aspects of aging) says that the fundamental knowledge needed to develop anti-aging medicine mostly already exists, but that science is way ahead of funding. In some ways I’m thinking that may be a good thing because we have a few things to sort out.

Aside from my personal feelings about very long life, I couldn’t help but wonder how a massively increased population would affect our planet.  And what about quality of life?

Never ran across anything regarding population. That’s probably a very negative side effect proponents like to ignore or at least downplay.

And many scientists—even those not suggesting we go stretching life expectancy to some crazy-high number—say that the aging process can be stopped and even reversed on a scale unseen by us modern folks. That means quality of life will not suffer. Being greatly “aged” (it all becomes quite relative) will not equal frailty. Forget about the Fountain of Youth; we’re talking immortality.

At what age should we “freeze” everyone?

Would we all be allowed to choose?

How old do you want to be for the rest of time?

When do we “retire”? Talk about worrying over “outliving your money” . . . SHEESH! But maybe we’d work to the age of 980.

Of note, and while I realize mathematically it will take a long time to reach 1,000, is that in recent modern times each year we add about three months to statistical life expectancy. Researchers point to obesity and its related maladies as the only real thing keeping that number down. But with cell and gene therapy it could all become moot making age limitless.

I don’t know. It’s all pretty mind boggling. Imagine the possibilities —or maybe the impossibilities—of having the wealth of our most brilliant minds over that long a time period. Would there be anything left to discover if immortality was?

Of course living in the times I do and having no other frame of reference, it seems to me that a big part of what makes mortal, human life special is that it is finite. Given my tendency to wander off on tangents I’m not so sure I’d ever be properly motivated to get anything done if I thought I had that much time.

I can’t wrap my throbbing mind around it. “Cure” old age and possibly death? For right now, I’ll settle for curing the headache all the questions the topic brings.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

What really happens

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

NON-EDITOR’S NOTE: I have not taken a break from column writing since I started this craziness three-and-a-half years ago.  And because the recent heat has fried what few brain cells I have left, I decided a small hiatus was in order.  I’m handing the reins over to the capable hands of the most wonderful daughter to ever grace this planet. I’ll find some special way to properly thank her.

Hello, Dear Readers.  My name is Erin, Natalie’s wonderful daughter.

I asked to take over her column this week so she could have a “break.” But really I’m here to give you some details of what really happens at the Whatley residence, because my mom only tells her side.

First off I’d just like to say for the record that my mom really does need a break. She does a lot of stuff that the rest of us could easily do for ourselves. Then she drives us places and spends hard-earned money on things we’ll often use for three seconds and get bored.  Or at least how she tells it. You would think she would know me by now. I get bored after four seconds, not three.

So I guess that means that she hasn’t been paying attention to me for the last twelve years or so, but I can kind of understand why. You see she’s been busy taking care of the food chain in our house. We have a cat, a dog, and two hamsters.

The cat gets the hamster and the dog gets the cat right? Not at our house! In our house it goes the cat gets the hamsters and the dog. She’s been trying to train the cat not to abuse the dog, or eat the hamsters.

But that doesn’t take all of her time, so I’ve been watching to see what all of her fuss is about.

She wakes up. As in by herself without anyone yelling for her to get out of the bed and put her “feet on the floor”.

Puts on make-up

Eats breakfast. The woman needs her fiber.  And who else puts a scrambled egg in oatmeal? Gross.

Taps on the computer. Says she’s “writing”, but I’m thinking I should have seen a few completed novels by now.

I know she does the above because for a few days and before I got into stay-up-all-night and sleep-half-the-day summer mode I spied on her.

She attempts waking me. This isn’t fun for either of us. And by noon after she has visited me several times getting up is no longer a sweet request. 

She tries to entertain me.  She’s not good at it. Something about how I should know how to occupy myself. Not so sure I agree.

Late afternoon I catch her on the couch reading a book while eating Bon-Bons. I interrupt with an, “I’m bored.” She tells me to go clean my room. Doesn’t she understand it’s my mess and I’m comfortable in it?

Since I’m locked in my room after that, I really can’t say what happens. But at some point a meal that will go uneaten by me and my brothers will be cooked. Is it our fault that she prepares things that she knows no kid would ever want? (I believe that broccoli was never meant to be eaten by humans.) 

And of course that’s a slow day. Somewhere in all that the laundry, dishes, vacuuming and dusting gets done. She acts like it’s a full-time gig or something.

 It’s been fun giving her a break from her job, but I guess all great things must come to an end eventually, so I bid you farewell.  Maybe I’ll come back and tell some stories on her.

By: Erin Whatley