The most plunderful time

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, National

First, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that those of you who braved Black Friday made it home in one piece with your booty.

By the time this meets up with your eyeballs, I will have face-planted—hopefully somewhere soft.

My bed would be ideal. And if I could get away with pulling the covers over my head and staying there until December 26, I would.

I’m not sure how I made it nearly 41 years without cooking and playing hostess with the mostest for Thanksgiving, but my turn in the oven finally arrived.

I’m writing to you under more than slight duress and a mere 48 hours away from T-Day (my kitchen and cookbooks are holding me hostage) as I think of everything that needs doing and how most of it can’t be done until the last minute.

My apron goes off to all you ladies (and gents) who have pulled turkey and fixings out of the hat year after year.

I was ready to throw in the dish-drying towel after the shopping alone.

Who knew this genteel lady would unleash some not-so-nice feistiness over the last-on-the shelf bag of pecan halves? Just kidding. Maybe.

 Instead of rudeness and outwardly pointed elbows I used stealth and cunning—took advantage of females who decided center-aisle was the place to discuss the finer points of pecan pies. They never saw me, but one was certain she saw a bag on the shelf.

 “Where did it go?”

I snickered as me, pecan halves, and my ninja-like ways strolled away to the tune of Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.

Then, true to form, I giggled some more and started tinkering with Andy’s lyrics . . .  right inside the local Wal-Mart where holiday cheer is on ample display—if not in human behavior, at least in décor and merchandise.

Be forewarned: I’m the Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge all rolled into one when it comes to the consumer madness the holidays have become. In the great words of Cindy Lou Who (of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” fame), “Everyone seems too kerbabbled. Isn’t this just a little superfluous?” Smart girl. Bah humbug!

It’s the most plunderful time of the year/ With kids single yelling and everyone telling you not to sneer/ It’s the most plunderful time on this sphere!

It’s the snap – snappiest treason to enthrall/ With those night and day bleatings/ And way sappy meetings with friends at the mall/It’s the snap snappiest treason to enthrall!

There be parties for boasting/Some bellows for hosting/ And too much too and fro/ There be nary proper glory to the long ago story/ Because we gave it the heave-ho . . .

It’s the most plunderful time of the year/There be much overflowing/And smarts not a showing/ When pocketbooks are steered/ It’s the most plunderful time on this sphere!

I hope you got a chuckle out of my rendition. It’s all in jest. Maybe.  

You all go ahead and stop center-aisle and catch up on the past five years. If your item disappears from one glance to the next know that stealthy ninjas are most plunderful. And if you hear the whistling of a catchy Christmas tune, it’s not me. Maybe.  

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Slicing pie with Jeremy

Author: natalie  //  Category: Life with children

What follows will not be a tasty treatise on the finer points of pie making just in time for your holiday baking, but rather an illustration of how I can’t cut it when it comes to proper slicing.

It’s  not often a mom gets the chance to play life-like cops and robbers with her son, especially when said son is almost grown and is trying to carve out some pieces of life that don’t include his mommy. Luckily I fall very loosely into the football-girls-car trifecta in that I watch him play, am female, and own a car used a great deal to motor him around until his big, happy, driver’s license day arrives. Otherwise, he might have forgotten I exist.

So when I saw an opportunity for a little quality time where I knew Jeremy would sit, stand, and slice pie alongside me with rapt attention and of his own free will, I grabbed a gun and a flashlight and went after it.

Since I have gone through the rigors of the Baytown Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy’s basic and advanced curriculum, graduated, and joined the alumni association, I have opportunities from time-to-time to observe and participate in some real police training.

Of course these classes are watered down a bit for the ease and comfort of the uninitiated, but still a great peek into the work of a police officer.

Enter my middle child, Jeremy.

 For as long as I can remember, Jeremy has planned a career of military and eventually law enforcement.  For some crazy reason that doesn’t scare me. I’m just plain proud of who he is and what he wants to be.

That gushiness aside, when I learned a new group of citizen’s police academy students were scheduled for comedic Officer Shawn Latta’s and Corporal Monica Summersill’s building clearing class, I knew Jeremy and I needed to attend, observe, and yes, clear a building together.

After our training, we were “called out” on a night-time burglary in progress. Neighbors reported a bad guy in the house and it was our job to go in and remove him—by force if necessary.

Armed with a flashlight, simunition gun (shoots fake bullets) and our wits we entered the unlit interior of a dark, layout-unknown-to-us residence.  

 I let Jeremy take the lead. He has a booming voice, is large enough for me to hide behind, and plus I wanted to get the full view of him under the effects of what’s called an adrenaline dump—see if he was as commanding under a little stress as he claimed he would be.

Together, we “sliced the pie” (room clearing method whereby a space is visually cut into pieces) and made entry into three rooms without incident.

Looking into the fourth room, however, we found our burglar. At that point it was quite obvious I was only along for the ride.

And when I heard, “Police! Put your hands up!” I didn’t even recognize my own child’s voice.  I was scared for the burglar (Officer Stewart Beasley) and was happy when he complied.  Then Jeremy communicated as trained to his fellow officer, me, and in my rattled state I didn’t quite follow protocol. Go figure. Let’s just say I was a little too eager to ‘cuff the burglar. I was duly chastised on the way home, but it was still loads of fun.

And be thankful that someday Jeremy will be soldiering and policing in far better form than me. When he slices a pie, he does it cleanly and serves up a near perfect piece. Me, I just a make a mess.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Pillow shopping a pain in the neck

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

Sometimes things that are supposed to bring comfort to our lives become a real pain in the neck.

Take for example your personal bed pillow. Sounds trivial, but considering its job of ushering you into sweet slumber 365 times a year it becomes pretty important.

I’ve learned just how high a place mine holds in my life as I’ve awakened with neck pain for months now.

I’m a little slow sometimes and initially blamed my discomfort on the stresses of living under the same roof with three teenagers. I almost always harbor tension in my neck. But for the most part, my teen cherubs are good eggs and not nearly that constantly a pain in my neck.

 Now, I’m pretty certain the aged pillow is to blame. Easy enough to remedy, right? Wrong.

If you’ve ever read The Paradox of Choice by psychologist Barry Schwartz, you already know the problems I encountered.

I left stores –pillowless–and with a much bigger pain pulsing behind my eyes. I guess the silver lining there was I forgot about my neck briefly.

Anyway, ultra-soft, soft, medium-soft, firm, or semi-firm? Plain feathers, down–goose or duck? Fiberfill, synthetic, or whatever in the heck poly cluster is? Then there is foam–of the breed that will memorize my exact head.

As if that weren’t enough, do I need hypoallergenic, “cooling” (has some sort of strange beads that will forever stave off hot flashes, thank heavens I’m not there yet) cervical contour, wedge-shaped to raise my esophagus higher than my stomach?

I have a good sporting chance of not entirely slipping into insanity over this because I at least know what size. King, please.

Dr. Schwartz contends in the previously-mentioned book that too many choices leave us paralyzed in indecision. That was me.

I simply could not determine which one would be suitable. Upon returning home I did the worst thing imaginable and researched the whole fluffy mess on the Internet. And I just thought I had problems while standing in the stores.

If and when I do find my body’s perfect match, I’ll record the combination and store it in the safe-deposit box with all my other important papers because advertising has forced me to know replacements should be purchased every 12-18 months. 

What really ruffles my downy feathers is that I know in the 12-18 month replacement time the model I choose this go-round will be discontinued.

 At the very least I hope to have a general idea for the future. Or maybe I could buy several (hundred) spares and rent a storage unit . . . decisions, decisions.

I won’t tell you which leading columnist confided he has been sleeping on his current pillows for DECADES. His name might rhyme with “him”. I remembered a column from years ago wherein he described his own pillow woes. Thought he might have some sage advice. “I dug my old ones out of the trash.” Thanks, “him”.

As of this writing my noggin is still not getting rest as it lies painfully atop a member of my sleep team that is no longer offering me proper support. It doesn’t even try. I think it knows that being a pain in my neck pales in comparison to finding its replacement. Maybe it’s right, and it pains me to say that.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Ill and exhausted

Author: natalie  //  Category: Issues, National

Don’t let the title alarm you. Physically, I’m mostly fine. Functional even.

Here we are about a year out from National Election Day. I know, already? But it is high time for us to do some massive cleaning out.

I’m a little shaky on whether or not I’m up to the task and especially given we’ll have a full year of non-stop media coverage wherein we’ll dissect prenatal conditions, penmanship, and even the bathroom habits of each potential candidate.

Something very uncharacteristic happened to me after the 2008 elections, and I was hoping to be over it by now. It has been three long years since we had to consider our plight and choose leaders on a national level. What can I say? This girl can hold a grudge if she’s so inclined. I’m not proud of it, just stating a fact.

I must also point out that I’m not suffering from sour grapes even though I did not vote for the man currently occupying the Oval Office.

It goes far beyond my lesser-of-two-evils candidate and party losing. It’s rather some deeply-rooted (I accidentally spelled rotted on the first attempt . . . it fits, too) supposed fruit-bearing trees not coming to fruition, i.e. people who want the job but can’t or won’t produce anything beyond childish bickering. And even that’s on a good day.

In the great words of my maternal figure, Linda Rowe, and as I hold my hand just above my eyebrows, “I’ve had it up to here!” (Yes, the lovely Mrs. Rowe would pronounce that red faced and quite loudly when she’d had enough of us heathens not pulling our load around the house.)

And because I no longer have the stomach for the non-stop political finger pointing, what’s surely coming in the next twelve months is causing me anticipatory illness. I’m already exhausted. I’d call it sick and tired but that’s a bit too cliché.

I used to brag about being a political junkie—prided myself on my habit and knowing all the issues and players along with the various arguments. I was the life of the party and way too much fun to argue with. My family can attest. I’ll send them your condolences.

 And it was delightful in a weird kind of way to be in a public place—say waiting for my oil to be changed—and have people around me start in on politics. Local, state, or national, didn’t matter.  I would let it go for about as long as I could stand before I let my own firebrand roll across my pearly whites—in a sweet, volume-appropriate voice, of course.  Shocked a few people.  Apparently I’m very docile looking.

But something changed and I’m almost embarrassed to admit I quit caring about the whole lot of it. I tuned out. Ignorance has been more than slightly blissful when I can manage to ignore the consequences of apathy. If only I could ignore my conscience, too.

So, I suppose I’ll have to get over myself because in the end I know all too well that it would be ignorant to ignore Decision 2012.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley