I’ll be seeing you, Miss Lavon

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

Please bear with me. Each and every time I sat down and tried to get through this I started bawling.

The Big Guy, for reasons we are not privy to, sees fit to have us bump into each other. Some hit harder than others leaving deeper indentations. On fortunate occasions friendships are formed and gifts money can’t buy are received.

I’ve lived long enough to recognize it, hold onto it, and feel the pain when it’s time to let it go.

And this past week I had to let go of at least my Earthly friendship with one Lavon Heintschel.

Having been born in Baytown in 1925 and remaining here all her life, many of you knew her, too, and for far longer.

I met Miss Lavon (that’s what I always called her) in the summer of 2009 when I began the Baytown Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy. Each week she stood impeccably dressed behind a table full of sugary delights, and since I tend to linger at such places, sampling one of everything, we got to know one another.

She had witnessed me running my mouth through my fingers here and began commenting on columns. I found a kindred spirit and enjoyed cutting up with her.

Little did I know, she was scouting and recruiting for a little job she had a class member perform at the Citizens Police Academy graduation banquet. Unbeknownst to yours truly, she had her eagle eye on me.

A few weeks passed, and after she had me adequately buttered and sugared up, she sprung my “duty” on me. I had been selected . . . to stand up and speak. Publicly. In front of people.

Anger drove me to such drastic behavior in the past, but I was a woman with a bee in her bonnet and was thusly driven.  And I still broke out in hives, felt as if my heart would surely pound out of my chest, shook like I was having an all-over body spasm and I’d have sworn I didn’t have any bones in my rubbery legs. How I managed not to stutter during such occasions remains a mystery.

Anyway, I pleaded my case to Miss Lavon. She wasn’t having it. She waved her little hand, smiled and chirped, “Oh! You’ll be great!”

Well, I wasn’t about to have it, either. And when I said no, I meant it. Bribing me with cookies wasn’t going to work. She had no idea how far I could dig in my heels.

Next class rolled around. Bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Miss Lavon skipped the pleasantries and went right to, “So have thought about what you’ll say? I’m giving you plenty of time to get your thoughts together.”

Spiked heels were in order. And I was going to have to drive them all the way down.

That little lady dragged me kicking and screaming through the thick mud in my own mind about what I was and was not capable of doing.

Under great personal duress and darn-near needing oxygen, I performed.  I faced my fear and secretly loved her for pushing me through that barrier.   

We stayed in touch regularly and she even came to know my children through her involvement at the schools’ Crime Stoppers programs where the kids participated in fundraisers.

Last Tuesday, just as her graveside service began, dark clouds poured heavy rain over the ground holding my shaky body. I had on the same spike-heeled shoes I wore that night I spoke.

The ground softened to mud and the only way to remain standing was to sink those heels all the way down.

Walking back to my car, I looked down at my mud-caked feet and realized my shoes would never be the same, and neither would I.

Good-bye for now, Miss Lavon. I’ll forever see your face every time I try to refuse even the gentlest of persuasion.

 © 2012 Natalie Whatley

Learn something new every day

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

With the new year still fresh and folks aiming to form new habits for a few more weeks before giving up a little saying came my way that made me think it was something we all could do: Learn something new every day.

Since I have held myself up as a vast receptacle of mostly useless knowledge, a few of you delight in sending things my way and no doubt get tickled when I reply, “I had not heard of that”.

Anyway, on just such an occasion this past week that happened and I got a, “learn something new every day” response.

It was meant as a statement, but having read an unlikely book (for me) recently, I decided that statement should be more of a challenge. That’s one I would gladly take on, and it would not be painful at all.

I’ll have to back up a bit and tell you that weeks ago I received in an e-mail a YouTube video of the record-setting, late, former UCLA men’s basketball coach, John Wooden.  Not something I’d typically spend time on, but I was assured he was a philosopher of sorts in addition to several other wonderful things.

So, I gave it a watch. WOW!

Sports guys, excluding The Sun’s sports writer Todd Hveem, who cracks me up and actually has me reading the sports section (I never used to do that), don’t usually garner my attention.  And I must admit that ignorance only begins to scratch the surface of describing me in the sports regard.

But in my never-ending quest to further enlighten myself, I see some of those sports guys have some great points that relate to life, not just on how to score a touchdown when the bases are loaded. Just kidding on that touchdown. Maybe. Fore!

Anyway, true to my form I looked Wooden up only to discover he had penned a few books about sports, but also ones about how to succeed in life. Wooden would probably chuckle over this, but I believe he must have been the inspiration for Star Wars’ Yoda.

Allow your brain to try on these excerpts, “Learn Forever, Die Tomorrow. Early on I came to believe that you should learn as if you were going to live forever, and live as if you were going to die tomorrow. What does this mean? In the simplest way, I would explain it like this.”

“Always be learning, acquiring knowledge, and seeking wisdom with a sense that you are immortal and that you will need much knowledge and wisdom for that long journey ahead. Know that when you are through learning, you are through.”

Given this information-at-our-fingertips age, learning something new each day is easy, and I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to “be through” even though I see the wisdom in living like today might be my last.

So, am I talking about hours a day spent delving into something new? No.

Just take a few mere minutes outside your comfort zone, and you, too, will be amazed at what you see. I never knew a basketball coach could ever gain my rapt attention. Learn something new every day.

© 2012 Natalie Whatley

Lavon Heintschel

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

 I see lots of folks are “hitting” my site searching for Lavon Heintschel, probably in search of her obituary. She was a wonderful friend, and I regret not knowing her for many more years than I did. May she rest in peace. Click on the link below if you’re looking for service information:


Find a love that won’t escape

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

When I saw this past week that The Baytown Sun was teaming up with Baytown Animal Services for a new “Pets of the Week” feature aiming to showcase adoptable pets, I knew I needed to share how good fortune and maybe fate had a hand (or maybe a paw) in an unlikely pairing of souls. Yes, it was that dramatic and then some.

In the fall of 2001 I was a young(er) mom with three children aged 2, 4, and 8 a shift-working husband who was also attending college classes. To say my plate was full and that I did not need anything else to take care of would be an understatement.

And yet, my then 4-year-old Jeremy wanted a pet.  He had discussed it with me many times and I was getting nowhere with my explanations about why pet ownership just wasn’t in the cards. He had no frame of reference for time, energy or monetary constraints. I didn’t stop taking care of him when baby sister came along, so what was one more?

Smart little devil that he was, he “adopted” a plastic fishing worm from his dad’s tackle box. It wasn’t even a complete specimen – had somehow lost a third of its body. No matter, Jeremy loved it, carried it around and told anybody who would listen all about his “pet”.

At first, I was elated. He had a “pet” he could take care of and he was thrilled. That was the best cared-for plastic worm in the history of mankind. For weeks Jeremy “fed” it and made sure it had a comfortable place to sleep. Thorny parenting issue averted and potentially forever bypassed . . . until the guilt set in.

Owning a real, live, breathing animal is a rite of childhood passage right? So, in November 2001 Jeff and I decided a dog would be great for the kids. Nothing fancy and cheap would be good, too.

We made our way over to “the pound”, which I know is probably no longer the politically correct term to use for what’s now Baytown Animal Services located at 705 Robert Lanier. If you’d like to visit they are open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and can be reached at 281-422-7600.

Anyway, out of I can’t remember how many pooches, one immediately garnered our attention. He was on Doggie Death Row and while looking sweet as all get out had been dubbed an “escape artist”.

According to workers he had been bailed out a couple of times before and the courts finally ordered he go live somewhere else or . . . 

He looked smallish – I have described him here before as being about the size of a Bassett Hound but spitting image of a long-haired Dachshund – standing in his prison cell, but as we loaded him in my lap for home transport we realized he was biggish. And that was right before he barfed in my lap.

In the days following I became even more ambivalent about my new charge as we went through the pains of acclimating him to our home.  At that time there was a “return policy” and I secretly suspected I might utilize it.

But something strange happened and that doggie, Scooter, figured out just who he needed to win over.

While I admit to being a tough nut to crack sometimes, that mutt dug his way into my heart and has not ever in over ten years tried to escape. He’s “my” dog and everyone knows he’s “Momma’s boy”.  He has been a great friend and companion.

At all times I positively know there is soul out there who would follow me to the ends of the Earth and off a cliff. We should all be so fortunate.

Check out the “Pets of the Week” on Tuesdays. Maybe you’ll find a love that will never escape, too.  

© 2012 Natalie Whatley

It is well with my soles

Author: natalie  //  Category: Home sweet home

It’s an annual tradition for me to perform deeper-than-usual cleaning in tandem with packing away Christmas décor. This year I became June Cleaver, Good Housekeeping seal-of-approval scientist, and Jane Jetson . . . all rolled into one.  And I have the minty-fresh floors to prove it. Shoot, now all I need is one of those nifty Wonder Woman outfits.

Several years ago three young kids, their friends, and our household pets convinced me that carpet—especially of the light-colored variety—was not practical unless the lady of the house didn’t mind standing on constant guard and at the ready to clean potentially permanent stains.

At a not-so-small expense the lower floor of the Whatley Estate was transformed to something harder, darker, and multi-toned neutral.

I instantly fell in love. It’s the perfect camouflage for tracked in dirt and pet hair. Life and my general sense of well-being were greatly improved. Oh, and I nagged less.

However, my feet don’t like to be shoed. Nor do they like walking around on the fine grit that’s perfect for gathering the dog’s hair into a dust Sasquatch. (My accumulations are too large to just be “bunnies”.)

Those are most attractive stuck to the bottoms of my feet, but even worse they feel —let me scan my brain for a scientific term—yucky. For that reason I became the proud owner of roughly 40 pairs of flip flops. 

Life went on and my pseudo shoes bore the yuckiness while my soles lost all hope of being bare in the downstairs of their own home. Queue the sad violin music.

But then Christmas 2011 came and my grandmother, the lovely Ruby Watson, generously gifted me with the Mint Plus Automatic Floor Cleaner which sweeps and wet mops all by itself.

 I’m almost certain the lady who spent years as an Air Force wife —always at the ready for a white-glove inspection—was not making any sort of statement about my housekeeping prowess.

And recall that I was born in the wrong era and that technology is often the bane of my existence. I have a love/hate relationship with it. We tolerate each other on good days. So, I was skeptical of Mint as I’ve never personally known a robot or been a fan of gadgets.

Jeff removed him (why my mind assigned a gender is a question without an answer) from the box and plugged him into the electrical juice for charging.

For days I eyeballed Mint, who was sitting in the corner ready, willing, and able to make my life easier if only I’d allow him. (There’s a much broader statement made there. The males in my life are chortling, rolling their eyes and thinking, “how true!”, but that’s a story for another day.)

 Not one member of my household failed to ask, “When are we gonna use that thing?”

When I was good and ready. That was when.

Finally school was back in session and our routine back in place.

Mint and I were left all alone to get to know each other. I read his manual and learned exactly what buttons to push. By the way, I’m superb at button pushing.

Using North Star Navigation GPS technology Mint super quietly went all through my house doing his work. Much to my surprise he did it quite well.

For the first time in ages I meandered around barefooted.  Heavenly music played in my head  . . . to the hymn tune “It Is Well With My Soul”. It is well with my soles.  You’re an angel, Grandmother.

© 2012 Natalie Whatley

Let’s delve into 2012

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, National

Happy 2012 to you all!

I see by some red, puffy eyes a few of you decided to stay up and burn the midnight oil to usher in the new year.

I have found staying awake increasingly difficult over recent New Years’ Eves. That probably speaks volumes about my social life or lack thereof. I hit a wall around 11:30 p.m. and crabby would be an understatement in describing my late-night aura. But I really don’t like discussing my less-than-desirable traits so we’ll move along.

Since this is a special day I thought about the whole “looking back” and “recapping” times gone by, but others have already done a fine job of that. So let’s see what we have to look forward to. Onward, ho!

First, 2012 can’t be discussed without mention of the Mayan Calendar Prophecy which predicts doomsday very late in the year. Despite curiosity unmatched by most of mankind, I couldn’t give a rat’s patootie about this even if Apple has an “app” for “surviving” it complete with a countdown clock, time capsule and note-to-self feature designed to remind you of what’s important during your last days. Y2K, anyone?  Next . . .

Mayan mania not to be outdone, in your spare time check out Schumann Resonance and zero point whereby some believe in this year . . . well, I can’t find the words to explain it, but I assure you it’s not good. Supposedly, electromagnetic waves from Earth have been speeding up since the 80s and . . . oh, I don’t get it, but time will stop when we reach zero point . . . in 2012. But wait, it won’t be the end, just a new beginning with a smaller population in 2013. Read at your leisure. Or not.

This year will also bring us the Olympic Games in London. Oh, my. I’m going to come off as such a boor.  While I harbor tremendous respect for the athletes and what it takes to compete at that level, these events don’t light my torch, either.

And none of us here in the good-ole U.S. of A will be able to ignore that it’s a national election year. I haven’t quite decided between plunging my head deeply into the sand or making the tinfoil hat part of my everyday wardrobe. Oooh . . . maybe I’ll alternate and enjoy the benefits of both. But I do look better in silver versus beige. Decisions, decisions 2012.

On a brighter note, get ready for the big color of 2012: orange. I suppose it’s only fitting we try to infuse a little sunshine on all the doom and gloom. You’re going to see it glowing pretty much everywhere and in everything. My sunny disposition is a little jazzed over this one, but let’s show some restraint, people, and remember the old adage that less is more lest you want to be carved at Halloween.

Whatever it all brings, we’ll laugh, cry and be angry together, but I absolutely don’t want to hear any “I told you so” after the time-space continuum rips and expels us from the planet in a fiery debris-filled explosion.

Have a booming great year!

© 2012 Natalie Whatley