Math with enemies

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

Recall that several months ago I nearly had to check myself into a rehab facility to get over an addiction to the computer word-forming game Bookworm.  I managed to break free after going cold-turkey and never looked back. Life was good. Words and I lived once again in perfect harmony until . . .

My dear friends, I have stumbled once again and been lured into a torrid relationship with yet another word game: Words with Friends.

 If you haven’t heard, it’s a multi-player word game where players take turns building words crossword-puzzle style with an opponent in a manner similar to the classic board game Scrabble. The rules of the games are similar but Words with Friends is not officially associated with Scrabble.

Decades of reading, writing, and playing word games has gifted me with a better than average (no bragging intended) vocabulary that aids me tremendously in annoying my offspring. I have been duly chastised for speaking in terms they don’t even want to know and forcing them to befriend a dictionary to figure out exactly what I mean. What can I say? It’s the little things in life that give me a charge.

But moving along, this is the same game that caused Alec Baldwin to be booted from a recent flight when he refused to shut down his electronic gadget because that meant being away from the game. In my pre-Words days I thought that whole episode was just silly. Now I understand . . . a little too well.   

I haven’t had my transportation disrupted, yet, but I know what it’s like having a big play all planned out and waiting for your turn. To be cut off at such a crucial moment is . . . well, torture.  The word inhumane comes to mind, too.

Still my problem has been of a little different variety.

After having my posterior handed to me on a gleaming silver platter one time too many I started looking into the game and reading tips from top strategists.

Ended up I was making some huge mistakes, the first of which was believing my ample vocabulary gave me an edge. It did not.

More than anything when it comes down to scoring the most points and winning the game, Words with Friends is about math.  My word knowledge doesn’t really mean diddly squat. And by the way, math is not my strong suit.

So, I’ve had to learn strategize – play a good offense as well as defense, which also means holding back some seemingly amazing word plays to avoid setting up my opponent for an even bigger score.  And I’ve never been one to hold back my words. It’s quite the challenge.

But odder is going nose-to-nose with “friends” and having it turn contemptuous. I’m even learning to trash-talk. Is it any big surprise my mouth writes checks my ultimate gaming skills can’t cash because sometimes I’ve got such a great word to flout that the numbers just be darned?  

The makers of the game got the name all wrong because once you get going it’s Math with Enemies not Words with Friends, but I’m counting down the minutes until I get to play again.

© 2012 Natalie Whatley

The timeless tick tock

Author: natalie  //  Category: Life with children

Time is but one of mankind’s equalizers. Removing those who are born and those who pass, remainders still only get 24 hours in each day. Novelist and poet C.S. Lewis explained it even better, “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”

Several times this past week I listened to stressed adults lament “not having enough time” to accomplish and/or participate in all they desired.  I have certainly felt their pain.

But it wasn’t until my 13-year-old daughter stood before me with large tears on the cusp of falling out of her even larger beautiful brown eyes that something quite profound dawned on me: For all the time we humans in this day and age spend on “education” (I’m talking basic book-learning here), we seem to be failing miserably in the basics of how to navigate real life.

It struck me as I was about to impart some time-management wisdom on my darling teary-eyed cherub, while recalling all the grown-up wailing and gnashing of teeth, that too many of us just don’t get it: Time is finite and not one of us gets to do it all. And who really wants to?

Yes, some will nearly die trying and annoy the heck out of those around them with all the nasty side effects of overextending one’s self.  To each his own, but I do get a tad miffed when such often intentional behavior encroaches on my world and inconveniences me.

However, and getting back to my sad, stressed little angel, I realized it was time to impart some motherly advice and I even ended up shedding a few tears of my own. Thank the heavens above for Granny Adcox who keeps us well supplied with hankies!

I explained how we all have the same number of hours in a day —some of us ending up with a longer string of days than others—and how quite simply choices must be made. And let’s face it: Sometimes it just stinks to choose one thing over another.  But somehow we have to grasp the totality of the here and now and weigh those options. Oh, and doesn’t it stink far worse when the scales hang in perfect balance, not making a decision clear?

Previously in her life, I made decisions for her by simply saying no to too many activities. I suppose it was my loosening of those reins that caused her to feel the strain. Not to mention, her brothers helped me figure out that allowing (or maybe it was forcing) them to choose based on time constraints (theirs and mine) also made them responsible for what came next. And there was no more blaming me for less-than-pleasing outcomes.

I eventually saw a smile on that pretty little face. Even though she hadn’t emerged from between the proverbial rock and hard place, the weight of the world had been lifted from her tiny shoulders. She was relieved to learn that she was not at all alone in her conflict – that I, and others, struggled, too.  

How to live out our time . . . it’s timeless.

© 2012 Natalie Whatley

The Miss Astor disaster

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

Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the British passenger liner Titanic in the North Atlantic Ocean after a collision with an iceberg.

Billed as one of the deadliest peacetime maritime accidents, its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City claimed the lives of 1,514 people.

Passengers included some of the wealthiest people in the world, as well as over a thousand emigrants from Great Britain, Scandinavia, Ireland and elsewhere seeking a new life in North America.

While I knew of Titanic and its sinking, it was never much an interest to me until I got verbally sassy one day and a gentleman jokingly told me to “watch your tone young lady”.

His tone reminded me of my mother calling me Miss Astor as a young girl when I let my, shall I say “spirited”, attitude surface.

So I took off on a little research voyage of my own.

 I learned that my grandmother and great-grandmother called their daughters that, too. See, I can’t help my “spunkiness”; it’s apparently engrained in my DNA. Shame on the stunning Linda Rowe for trying to temper that; who did she think she was?  Miss Astor?

 Then I found that my supposed namesake, Madeleine Force Astor, was a Titanic survivor. There were many Astor women from which to choose, but the consensus among some internet material was that Madeleine was the source of calling women “Miss Astor”.  

Oh goodie, I thought. Knowing the one hundredth anniversary was coming up, I tucked it all away in a first-class cabin in the Whatley passenger liner Natanic. Your sense of foreboding at this point is probably not off the mark.

Nineteen-year-old, American citizen, and five-months-pregnant Madeleine boarded Titanic in France with her millionaire husband John Jacob Astor IV. They were headed home to New York from a lengthy honeymoon abroad.

John, 47, and Madeleine, 19, had married the previous September amid scandal. He was one of the wealthiest men in the world and recently divorced. She was a young socialite who caught his eye.

To make a long story short, as a woman she was afforded a spot on a lifeboat while John had to stay behind. She became a wealthy young widow.

Following her life to her death in 1940, I didn’t find anything that was really deserving of what being called a Miss Astor actually turned out to be: snobbish and uppity . . . mainly because of being born and bred into more money than any of us could imagine.  And even more Astor women who could’ve potentially worn those labels surfaced. My ship was a-sinking. My idea didn’t hold water, either.

Then by sheer accident —no iceberg involved—I ran across Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, who would have been Madeleine’s mother in law had she not passed away in 1908.

This woman took the cake. She was THE New York socialite of her era. Wealthy beyond anything I can comprehend which is fine, really, but she came up with a list simply titled, “The Four Hundred”.

To be included in the list, one had to be basically as well off as her, and here’s the kicker: One could not be from “earned” money; one had to be from “old” or inherited money. If you weren’t on “the list”, why you were nothing and not fit to breathe the same air.

And, while there were other Astor ladies of distinction, she demanded to be called and/or referred to as, “The Mrs. Astor”.  As I took in more of her, I could think of a few other names, but since I’m in polite company . . .

So you see my column-ship sank.  Like a good captain though, I went down with it. And that, my friends, is something a Miss Astor would never do!

 © 2012 Natalie Whatley


My tulips are sealed

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays

I had it in my mind leading up to today that I’d write something profound for Easter. Who doesn’t get excited and enticed into deep thinking over all the symbolism of new beginnings?

But as my week progressed, the heat of life here in present-day 2012 stood in the way and I became a puddle of goo.

 Picture a chocolate bunny left in a hot car: My eyes are where my tail used to be and I think my tail is sliding into my feet. Somewhere between the two big ears lies a brain. It’s overheated and I’m sorry to report not quite functional.

Thankfully, I had a Plan B before the meltdown.

With spring in full bloom I have been enjoying all the beautiful, vibrant colors blossoming all about the land. And during some internet travels I landed on where I learned that my preference in flowers may actually point to some personality traits.  (That site has all sorts of fun little quizzes if you’re inclined to waste time on the addiction it becomes.)

The major floral players are listed below for your enjoyment and perusal. 

Tulips say you’re very positive, popular, and universally admired. You are often hopelessly in love, and connect to others easily. You are a naturally cheerful and upbeat person with an amazing smile. You have a fresh perspective and a different way of looking at the world.

Carnations:  You’re very likeable and have a distinct style—one that many people find fascinating. You are charming and alluring. People are drawn to you. You never forget a name or a face. And the people you love are always on your mind. Some may accuse you of being out of touch, but you’re truly a classic.

If daisies are your favorites you’re very resilient with a spirit of pure optimism. Your view of the world is eternally cheerful. You are bold, vibrant, incredibly striking and always stand out in a crowd. You are adaptable and flexible. You can thrive in almost any situation and you’re often underestimated. Your critics and enemies are in for a surprise.

Iris:  You are very spiritual and incredibly hopeful and courageous. Even when you’ve been challenged in life, you have faith that everything will work out. Your feelings run deep, and you are a very grateful person. You are very affected by the world around you and thankful for the life you lead.

Orchids say you’re very elegant. You are exotic and intricately beautiful while possessing a unique grace that’s both delicate and strong. You are thoughtful and refined—the definition of class.
Some people may find you unapproachable, but it’s only their lack of confidence speaking.

A lily says you’re very enticing: playful, flirty, and friendly. You easily light up a room or someone’s heart. Your unique personality attracts a lot of attention, but your cute ways get you in trouble. People can’t help but be a little jealous of you.

Roses: You’re very affectionate— a classic romantic who believes in true love. You often experience deep emotions and feel warmth towards almost everyone. You are a bundle of positive feelings and sweetness, but easily hurt. People should be careful with your heart.

Sunflowers say you’re very buoyant. You are a truly warm person with amazing bursts of energy who brings happiness to everyone around you. You are bright, bold, cheery, and adored by many. Friends are nourished by your optimism as you rise to the occasion whenever needed. You have boundless enthusiasm.

Which one am I? Even a blooming idiot knows to keep some things secret. I can’t have you folks digging around in my inner-most psyche. Even if I could find my tulips in the puddle, I bet they’re melted shut.

© 2012 Natalie Whatley

I adore an April fool

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

In honor of the day, I’m wearing a court jester’s outfit. I hope this doesn’t come off as disjointed because that could happen when you wear a silly jingle-bell hat while working.

I never realized how much I moved my head until now. Who knew I bobbed such a catchy tune?

Aside from acting foolish, I aim to do something quite serious. Someone I absolutely adore was born on this very day. Yep, April Fools’ Day, and I can’t begin to tell you how appropriate that is.

If you happen to know my grandmother, Ms. Ruby Watson, go on up and personally deliver happy birthday wishes. Tell her I sent you.

I’ll refrain from giving her age, but know she has been mistaken for my mother, and my mother mistaken for my sister.  I can only hope their genetics play a massive role in my own aging, but let’s get off the topic of my impending wrinkles.

The origins of this light-hearted “holiday” (it’s not an official one) also referred to as All Fools’ Day are a little shadowy, but many people still recognize it with all sorts of good-humored foolishness.

Way back in the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25, and in some areas New Years was a weeklong celebration ending April 1. It has been suggested that April Fools originated because the folks who started celebrating the new year on January 1 were making fun of those who celebrated on other days.

But the day may also have roots in the Roman festival of Hilaria (yes, our English word “hilarious” traces back) which was also held on March 25.

In those times, the days prior to Hilaria were spent in tears and mourning. Without going too deeply into subject matter I’m no expert on, castration rituals were performed on the eve of “The Day of Joy”. I don’t know the whys and wherefores, but I suspect we can all discern the origin of that sadness.

Anyway, on the following day it was no longer proper to be in a mournful state.

I imagine people got creative and found ways to make each other laugh and smile. The human condition being what it is and has been I bet they got a chuckle out of much the same of what we do today.

All of that said I’m so glad to have the aforementioned Ruby Watson, the best April fool, in my life. She has always made me smile.

“Fool” can be interpreted in a less than flattering way, but make no mistake, she has never been one to lack wisdom or common sense. Quite the contrary. She just knows when and how it’s OK to be silly.

I’ve said before, I’m a first-born, practical, mostly-take-life-too-seriously stick in the mud. She taught me how to have fun and how to be silly.

I stayed with her and my granddad many times as a child. At times, she was all business – things needed to be done. But when the work was done, we played.

One time we gathered a bunch of acorns. I didn’t know what I’d do with them, and don’t even remember what we collected them in, but later that day she showed me how to make little people out of them.

We drew faces and the little cap on top made them look like they were wearing hats. I think we somehow glued bodies together but my clearest memory is of their happy little faces and sitting next to her with markers in hand.

I guarantee my creative streak, although in shown a different medium (I work in words, not acorns or any of the other things she was good at creating with) came from her.

And happy little faces . . . imagine mine on the day of my fourth birthday party getting a Barbie-doll cake handmade by my grandmother to show off and share with my friends. The cake portion was a beautiful pink ball gown and the top was a real Barbie body wearing that cake dress.  My face still gets happy remembering that day. I was so proud.

From one impressed birthday girl to another, happy birthday Grandmother!

© 2012 Natalie Whatley