A Shadowy cataclysm

Author: natalie  //  Category: Home sweet home

A few years ago Halloween a scrawny black cat showed up at the Whatley Estate. Worried about the fate of such a creature on such a night, we took the little guy in and provided shelter “for that evening only”.

Well, I’ve written about him (Shadow) many times since and you all know he weaseled his way into our family (and hearts) and took reign over the Whatley Estate grounds where he collects “trophies” . . . not the least of which was a squirrel he proudly carried in his jowls and laid at my feet which were standing INSIDE my home.  He looked so dejected when I became angered over that bloody, flopping mess, but that’s a story for a different day.

When it became apparent Shadow had no plans of moving along he and I discussed the conditions of his adoption. Then I headed off to the vet to get the kitten’s health in order.

 Much to my surprise he was no kitten, but rather a wormy and malnourished six-pound full-gown cat. Some hefty coinage, food, and vast amounts of TLC later the vet deemed him “recovered” and in tip-top shape—a lean, mean nine-pound fighting machine.

Currently weighing in at just over 20 pounds, he resembles a small panther. He’s strong, stealthy and still fast enough —even with his expanded girth—to catch whatever he decides to go after.

So imagine my surprise when all the sudden our version of the lion king is apparently afraid to go outside. Something is lurking, or maybe as I suspect, swooping, and giving him the what for.

We noticed him pacing back and forth at the back door and in time he even started growling as he paced.

We’d open the door to let him after his prey only to watch him poke his head just past the door frame, then back up and slink away up the stairs and far away from . . . who knows exactly what.

I was sympathetic to his plight right up until he decided my front-entry rug would double as a litter box. (He’s never used a litter box and has always taken care of his business outdoors.)

Catching him one time too many squatting on my rug, I picked his big behind up and deposited him on the back patio.

We raced back to the door and I had to hold him out with my foot as I tried to close the door. After I got it closed, he stood up on his hind legs and clawed at the door looking panic-stricken. I’d never seen anything look quite so pitiful or terrified. It was akin to full grown man running and screaming like a little girl.

He started “crying”. I folded. He darted in and hid behind my legs.

I wonder if the mighty hunter has lost his marbles. I’d call his manhood into question, but that was taken away as a condition of his staying.  Or maybe mockingbirds, which are territorial, mean and hatching young’uns in our bushes and trees, have taken to harassing him.

Whatever it is, our big, bad panther-like kitty has suffered a cataclysmic event. Something in the shadows has turned him into a fraidy cat.

© 2012 Natalie Whatley

Don’t mess with my soapbox

Author: natalie  //  Category: Home sweet home, Issues

While I still have my preferred soapbox to stand upon, I come to you this week from atop my box of Tide laundry detergent. Prepare yourself for a rant.

Some years ago I enjoyed the benefits of a cold/allergy medication called Actifed.

The stuff —pseudoephedrine hydrochloride 60 mg and triprolidine hydrochloride 2.5 mg—just worked when my sniffer was having issues and together we had about a 25-year (no) run, as in . . . there isn’t a  lady-like way to put this, no excessive snot.

Then some moron criminals figured out that my favorite, legal drug of choice could be used to make their favorite, illegal drug of choice.  I can’t be bothered in the middle of my hissy fit to research it, but believe it was methamphetamines.

It got to where every visit to any store only led to empty shelves.

I decided supply wasn’t able to keep up with demand and that I’d have to find a replacement.  I searched many labels for a similar product. Those medications were missing from shelves as well.

I marched right up, got in line, and proceeded to wait for near eternity in a local, very large retailer’s pharmacy line for answers.

“We can’t keep it on the shelf. We order, put it out, and within an hour it’s all gone. And inventory tracking shows the products are not being scanned at the checkouts.  It’s all being stolen and authorities across the nation believe being used to make other illegal drugs.”

Fast forward a few months and I hit upon the mother lode one day—four boxes of 24-count Antihistabs, which were a generic, but worked just as well. I was giddy as I completed my shopping. Snot free days were in my immediate future.

With great expectations I piled my booty onto the counter and watched my prizes scanned and bagged.

But wait, there was a problem: A special, “I’ll have to call the manager” problem. There was a secret code and a flashing light. Store management was on me and my loaded basket lickety-split.

“I’m sorry ma’am but we can’t sell you all four boxes of the Antihistabs AND that bottle of children’s cough syrup. You will have to put two of those packages back.”

I had to contain my outrage lest I wanted a pair of silver bracelets and a chauffeured escort to BPD’s Crossbar Hotel.

The drug-making morons could walk right out the front door with enough to last them through the Armageddon, but I—honest PAYING customer with a snotty nose (and attitude at that point)—could not!

The Statute of Limitations has run out, so I’ll admit to stopping at another store on the way home and buying not one, but two cough syrups. I might have been inconvenienced, but not deterred. Take that, Mr. Store Manager who treated ME like the criminal!

Go forward another few months and to get anything even remotely helpful in the cold/allergy department, we were required to scan our driver’s license at the pharmacy where the over-the-counter meds requiring no prescription were now behind-the-counter. And, by the way, purchases were (still are) tracked by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) and don’t go over your “allotment”. Or else.

Try taking care of allergy-ridden or sick kiddos who are not old enough to have a driver’s license and take care of yourself. I can personally attest: not possible at the height of allergy season when five people are popping pills. Like any mother would do, I have done without  . . . the drugs, but not my own snot.

By now I’m sure you’re wondering just what my problem is.

This past week it’s been all over the news how Tide laundry detergent is being stolen, sold on the black market, and possibly tied to the illegal drug trade by no fault of its maker, Proctor & Gamble. An FBI spokesman likened what has been happening to that same scenario with the cold/flu/allergy drugs just a few years back. Task forces are being formed, the problem and what to do about it studied.

It snot cool to mess with my world, thieves!

If I catch a one of you, why you’ll have one snotty woman on your hands!

© 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

Yule laugh, too!

Author: natalie  //  Category: Home sweet home

Here at the Whatley Estate, we’ve been decking the halls with boughs of holly because ‘tis the season to be jolly. Oh, what the heck, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la! Wow. I sing so much more beautifully in print.

As you all know, I quite purposely became a slacker in the holiday-decorating regard after many years of going way overboard both inside and out. And it was without cheer in my heart that I spent weeks after the big day carefully packing and putting away.

Did my home’s occupants even notice how it all went up and then back down, or have a clue why I wore a frown? I thought not.

Two scaled-back, far-easier-on-me seasons passed and truth be told, I was fine with it. Pleased as holiday punch. Life in the new, less-is-more era was good.

BUT. You knew there was going to be a “but”, didn’t you? Parental guilt. It makes us do nostalgic and other insane things.

How were Jeff and I to refuse when faced with, “You know this could be one of my last Christmases at home.” (That same cherub used similar logic last spring break to score a week-long family trip to sunny Orlando, Florida. I think he just wanted to check out the Minnie Mice, but I digress.) Anyway, my spine slipped completely from my body.

So, out from the deep recesses of the Whatley Estate’s belly came boxes left undisturbed for nearly three years.

I did have some backbone and told darling cherubs and their daddy that I would not touch, or hang, a single strand of outdoor Christmas lights. Sounds harsh (bah humbug!), I know, but you must understand that Jeff can’t (finds it physically impossible) hang a few lights . . . more to the tune of about 10,000. You know I wouldn’t exaggerate.

I have awakened some nights to the sounds of hovering aircraft mistaking it all for a place to land. And then there’s the minor detail of not being able to run a hairdryer upstairs while the “display” is lit . . .  trips the breaker. Get the picture? 

My thinking was that if I left cherubs to put in the hard outdoor labor, they’d determine it was all too much work. Not for the first time, I was wrong. Guess who will not go outside and direct air traffic with wet hair?

For the most part I ignored my outdoor workers, refused to be sucked into that bit of madness I’d easily given up. Oblivion to non-working strings of lights, blown fuses, and the disposition of the individual tending to same is a beautiful thing.

 Wearing blinders, I’d occasionally step out and at least offer food and drink – wanted them to remain strong enough to finish what they’d started.

But the highlight came when after hearing oldest cherub’s name called by an excited-sounding, way- up-in-the-air Jeff. 

“Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter and threw up the sash!”

“When what to my wondering eyes should appear” but a man whose ladder had fallen, he was bear-hugging a tree, holding on to life and unbroken limbs (tree and body) so dear.

And oldest cherub so lively and quick ran to the scene . . . it was pure slapstick.

After a fleeting moment of horror and then the viewing of things quickly turning out OK, I lost it in a fit of hysterical laughter.

I even acted surprised when the story was later relayed with great fanfare.

“Dad fell out of the tree, but had the presence of mind to grab the trunk on the way down? You don’t say.”

I think they were disappointed over eliciting only a slight giggle from me.

I never told them I saw it all go down and laughed myself to tears and stomach cramps.

Yule keep this between us, right?

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Join me for some Lemmon-aid

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas, Home sweet home

Here on this first day of spring, I can’t tell you how happy I am to now be able to read Randy Lemmon in The Sun. In case you’ve missed it, the host of 740 KTRH’s Garden Line now has a column running here on Tuesdays. Fabulous addition. Kudos to whoever fertilized that idea and made it grow.

I have listened to Randy many times, and he has tried his best to impart basic lawn-care knowledge. My ignorance is no reflection of his vast abilities. He led this horse to the water hose and well, you know the rest of that story. Anyway, nice to see him in print. Maybe I’ll absorb the message better if I read, reread, and read again with a nice, cold beverage while I lounge in my chair and wish for beautiful, lush surroundings. (I bet there will be a lesson on how the lawn and garden fairy doesn’t show for little girls who sit on their behinds watching and waiting.)

This time of year my mind starts conjuring up all sorts of beautiful possibilities for the sprucing up of the flowerbeds. Given my track record, it’s a mystery why I haven’t been investigated by one of Baytown’s many garden clubs and eternally banned from landscaping attempts. Exasperation, amaryllis envy, and far too many errors in my trials have proven me an herbicidal maniac. Is it asking too much to have some lovely flora before I’m pushing up daisies?

And it’s a strange thing: Immerse me in words and the creative engine sparks, but when it comes to horticulture (and many other things for that matter) I’m a dud. So, under the guise of exercise I take off on neighborhood reconnaissance missions whereby I carefully choose the victims . . . uh, I mean the plant species . . . that I will bury in my own plot. My choices have become fewer in that I have learned to accept the limitations of my non-budding talent, but I’m still plowing through to see just how far I can push the seed-packet envelope. Not far.

It’s all a shame because genetically speaking I should be able to hold two green thumbs way up as my lineage boasts some impressive gardeners. Somehow I learned to enjoy the end result far more than the hard-work process. Suppose it’s a generational thing? What’s a girl to do? I can’t even engage in plant-related conversation without my eyes glazing over and my ears obviously don’t work in the regard, either.

I take some comfort in that I’m not a complete failure: I have plants nearly twenty years old that have somehow survived. Survival of the fittest, I suppose. Hey . . . that means I’m an expert on what won’t survive. I think I just found my horticultural niche. There may even be a radio show and book deals in my future. The list of what I can manage to kill is endless.

Anyhow, I’m rolling out a big welcome mat for Randy. Maybe he can turn me around with some printed Lemmon-aid. Or maybe I’ll just sit back and watch him do all the work. I’m good at that!

 © 2011 Natalie Whatley

Dear diary . . .

Author: natalie  //  Category: Home sweet home, It's all about me, Life with children

It’s not often that I allow all of you into the inner sanctum of my mind. I know you’re thinking, “My gosh, woman! If what I’ve seen comes only from the outer surface, you are a total fruit loop!” You’re probably right.  And I’ve had a busier than usual week which left me little time to dream up something silly for your edification. So I’ll try a different route this week. It should suffice beautifully since someone told me when I started this gig that most folks just enjoy observing someone else’s craziness. Stay tuned. There will be a fantastic train wreck. Who knows when, but in the end I’ll probably not disappoint. Anyway, recent excerpts from my diary:

Any day: My long stint as a live-in maid is drawing to an end, and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. For the second time, I have checked out from the library “What Color Is Your Parachute? : A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers” by Richard Bolles. Poring over each page for the second time while taking notes, I thought of all that inspirational talk about “who is packing your parachute?”.  I’ve determined I don’t have a parachute to pack. Guess I better get one. Pronto.

Everyday: Laundry. Laundry. And more laundry. Like my MawMaw King used to say, “It’s like the tide.” It’s never going to stop coming in. And I can’t find the words to describe the special feeling that washes over my entire being when I find FOLDED, clean clothes from the last batch in the dirty clothes hampers.  If I really wanted to live up to some of the names I’ve surely been called by the not-so-little teenage darlings who put them there, I’d place the now-smells-like-dirty-socks clothes in the drawers for wearing. (I don’t do it because the adults around my children during the day would surely notice the odor. A stay-at-home mom sending her kids out in filthy-smelling clothes . . . I don’t need that kind of publicity.)

Today: I didn’t exercise AND treated myself to nearly an entire box of Nabisco’s Chicken in a Biskit crackers while I—just for grins—read Clinton Kelly’s (Of TLC channel’s “What Not to Wear”) book “Oh No She Didn’t : The Top 100 Style Mistakes Women Make and How to Avoid Them”. I’m a fashion failure. I lost count, but I had committed at least 96 of his so-called “crimes”.  Lock me up, please.  I need a vacation and wearing the same jumpsuit everyday would remove the stress I’ll now feel upon entering the little house of horrors: my closet.   

Someday: I have big plans. I don’t know exactly what they are yet, but they’re big. Where do I want to be in five years? HA!  More realistic might be to think about where I’d like to be in five minutes. I might have some shred of control there.

And there you have it. Putting it all down on paper I realized that my surface thoughts are actually far more interesting that what’s going on in the under-construction deep far reaches. It’s pretty barren and there’s an awful echo. Hear the train whistle?

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

‘Twas the day after Christmas

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, Home sweet home, Life with children

Greetings everyone! I hope this finds you all basking in the afterglow of a beautiful Christmas. Because this time of year gets so busy, I enlisted some help with my column. I’d love to give credit where credit is due, but as is my luck there’s controversy buried in something as simple as determining who penned the famous “‘Twas the Night before Christmas”.

To avoid potential problems, I’ll say thanks to Clement Clarke Moore OR Henry Livingston for providing inspiration way back in the 1820s. I’ll let those two hash it out.  And without further ado, on with the show!

(Disclaimer: In no way do I advocate the use of a Taser on cute little sugar-plummed-up human beings, but who among us hasn’t at least thought about it? Don’t implicate yourself out loud. I, of course, make my inner-most t ruminations known for your amusement.  That I might be arrested, or locked in a rubber room for doing so is a job hazard I accept; money and fame have a way of negating such things.)

‘Twas the day after Christmas, when all through the town, parents lying passed out, drooling, face down. The stockings are emptied all over the floor, sweet-candy contents consumed, hyperactivity hard to ignore. The children are crazed darting to and fro, with so much that is new, which way to go?

Mamma in her robe and Papa with his new razor, decided they should have asked for a Taser! Because all through the house there’s nothing but noise, whose idea was it to bring all these toys?

Up from the floor they arose feeling numb, remembering it all came with a rather large sum. The smiles seemed worth it leading up to the day, who imagined there would be such a fray? When what to their haggard eyes should appear, youthful energy waning, relief may be near!

Small little people beginning to yawn, they’ve not slept a wink since yesterday’s dawn. More rapid than the effects of sugar, energy tumbled. One tripped over strewn packaging and wearily stumbled. “Now, sleep! Now, Slumber, Now, Nap! Now, Doze! On Dream! On Hibernation”, sleepy parents propose. Don’t worry about a bed, right there is fine. Relax little darlings it’s all by design.

Like a litter of pups nestled in a papered box, they curl up wearing pajamas, feet covered by new socks. Silence reigns and a sweet sigh released, for all the mayhem has finally ceased. And then in the silence, the feeling, it grew. It really was worth it, what an incredible view. The moment, it sparkled.  The minutes began to pass. I wanted to freeze it, stop the hourglass!

Beginning the clean-up, trying not to disturb, the trash was cleared and hauled to the curb. Tired, but feeling renewed, my heart swelled, began to protrude. For it was all over, at least for a year. I leapt through the air and yelled a loud cheer.

Returning to ground and zipping across the drive, I rejoiced as I realized I’d made it through alive! And with that it was done, over, the end. At least until next year I mused as I grinned.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

My labor is not loved

Author: natalie  //  Category: Home sweet home, Life with children

Happy Labor Day weekend to you all! I hope you’re enjoying a last summer hurrah as we conclude this seasonal chapter.

Back in the day, school children would be preparing for their return to the classroom, but here in modern times we already have two full weeks of instruction under our belts.

It’s always a little weird to get those weeks in and then have a long weekend. I suppose it’s a good thing, though, as the first days are an exhausting exercise in getting sleep schedules back on track (you know I allowed my kiddos to sleep until noon all summer – the less time I had to endure bickering the better), learning new teachers’ personalities and getting in some semblance of a routine.

Let me preface the tirade that is forthcoming with a statement: No, I don’t look for things to complain about. These things find me, and I seem rather adept at voicing my displeasure. Honed skill or obnoxious habit? You decide.

The routine for the 2010-2011 school year will be that every single person in my house is on a different schedule. I’m tough and will adapt. However, I swear by Betty Crocker that I’m on the cusp of throwing in the apron when it comes to meals.

How many times has it been pounded in our collective head that family meal times are important? And that all sorts of familial crises can be averted if parents would just sit down and eat at least one meal a day with their children. I try, and I’d love to, but . . . By the time everyone rejoins me at home in the evenings, I don’t want to eat – my body’s screaming, “it’s bedtime!” or I’ve already succumbed to starvation and chewed my arm off while waiting. I’d attempt breakfast if anyone was sociable at that hour.

Since I let the pantry run bare just prior to school starting, I had some massive grocery shopping trips shortly after school started. And this is how the food has been rotating: I drag overflowing carts to my car, load the trunk while sweating profusely and deliver it all home where it’s unloaded and put away. Still sweating. Then, in a labor of love and sweating yet again over a hot stove, I use said groceries to prepare a meal that sits uneaten by at least three-fifths of the family. Since I can’t stand to see it go to waste, I pack it up and move it to the refrigerator. A few days later I’m pushing the remains down the garbage disposal.  And while I don’t have violent tendencies, the next person who says, “There’s nothing to eat”, may provide the garbage disposal with something a little more substantial to chew up.

It’s apparent I’m the one who will have to be more flexible. But I must draw the line at performing dinner-time gymnastics. I have upheld my end of the household labor agreement. If folks residing at The Whatley Estate aren’t careful, a strike may be in order. This laborer and her trusty disposal are fed up!

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

My apologies for bugging you

Author: natalie  //  Category: Home sweet home, Issues, National

Sitting at Gentry Junior School’s start-of -the-year orientation, I was delighted to hear from school nurse, Gayle Boisture, that the H1N1 virus—otherwise known as the swine flu—had been downgraded and was not the concern it was this time last year. But I must warn you all of the latest threat. On your behalf, I stay on the cutting edge of trends and have been monitoring something creepy for a good while. It’s time for me to sound the alarm.

If you are in the least bit squeamish, or if the mere mention of head lice makes your scalp crawl you may want to stop here. My head’s feeling a bit itchy, and I may not sleep for a week, but I’m highly compensated for such burdens.

An infestation eradicated decades ago is rearing its ugly, bloodsucking-insect head here in the good ole United States of America. I’d seen a sprinkling of news stories with professionals warning it was coming as the problem was getting severely worse around the globe, and tucked it away.

Most of what I ran across sounded “chicken little”, but the headlines are popping up in greater frequency and I recently learned that the Environmental Protection Agency held a summit on the impending crisis in 2009. What has some high-ranking officials bugging out? Bedbugs.

The little critters have caused Ohio’s government and the EPA to scratch at each other over the “proper” use of chemicals, and as is usually the case, the good citizenry is hung in the middle—taking to the sidewalks to sleep at night because sleeping quarters are uninhabitable. Now the Centers for Disease Control and, I kid you not, the Department of Defense are involved in the crisis.  

I know, at first glace and from up on a cleanliness pedestal, filth comes to mind. You may want to hop on down, because this is a problem for any one of us who doesn’t reside in a hermetically-sealed bubble. One can pick them up in just about any public place, and bring a happy bedbug couple to reside and start a family in their dream home: your bed.

Back in the day when pesticides were pesticides (I know some have been proven harmful, but in my humble opinion the pendulum has swung too far the opposite direction. Save the hate-mail for someone smarter than me.) DDT wiped out this nuisance in the developed world.

Since about 1995, they’ve been re-emerging: resistant to DDT and any other weenie-fied chemical we now have at our disposal. Some statistics show the infestation doubled between 1995 and 2001 and that the bedbug population has continued to grow as more pesticides used to counter other pests while peripherally killing bedbugs were removed from the arsenal.  

Luckily, extensive lab testing shows that bedbugs are not likely to pass disease from one human to another. However, they can be extremely harmful to mental health. I know some of you are already in a panic and will no doubt soon be suffering from delusional parasitosis, whereby you’ll be certain you are infested with a parasite that isn’t present.

I suppose the world just isn’t right unless we have a certain level of paranoia to contend with. I sometimes lie awake at night wondering what to obsess over next. I bet you’ll do it now, too. Good night, sleep tight; don’t let the bedbugs bite!

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Living the wild life

Author: natalie  //  Category: Home sweet home

Being an adventurous sort, I have many days when I desire a little excitement outside of the mothering-teenagers variety. My wish came true last Sunday morning.

I try to be out of bed before everyone else because it’s important that I have some quiet time to gather my thoughts and goals for the day before semi-organized chaos ensues.

I was doing just that while catching up on some reading and enjoying a cup of hot tea in what’s referred to at The Whatley Estate as the computer room, which abuts the backyard. (More refined folks would call the room a “study”, thus my use of “abut”. My persona is carefully balanced between down-home and pretentious.)

Lost in what I was reading, the subconscious parts of my brain began alerting me to trouble.  Coming to, I realized there was an awful racket coming from the backyard. Then I remembered Shadow the cat (aka “Killer”) was outside. The squawking and screeching of what sounded like an entire flock of birds prompted me to my feet.

Glancing through a window before flinging the door open, I saw a wild menagerie. The violence so intense that I threw reason aside before running full bore into the scene . . . in my nightgown and completely unarmed save for a loud voice. (I had been reading a fascinating book by FBI special agent, Joe Navarro, discussing how to override the limbic system and go against the body’s natural ability to flee danger. I soldiered in. No doubt he would’ve been proud.)

Shadow was hunkered down, apparently on top of prey and was being attacked from above by a pack of Blue Jays. Deduction told me he’d caught a bird and that the family had swooped down to take revenge.

“Shadow! Come here!”

He minds far better than my children, and because I think he appreciated the back-up, Shadow quickly gathered his catch and bolted towards me – with a SQUIRREL, who didn’t appear to be doing so well, flailing under the pressure of his jaw!

I love squirrels and have since hand-feeding them as a child with my Pawpaw on his porch to the east in Nederland, Texas. It was a sad day when I removed the corn feeders from my trees months ago. But I’d taken in a killer (this wasn’t Shadow’s first squirrel rodeo) and felt it was cruel to entice my furry little friends to their demise.

“Shadow! Put that down!”

The wounded was dropped and it scurried into some high, decorative grass close-by and collapsed.

I know Shadow was doing what cats instinctively do. And I did what I instinctively do when a young male in my house perturbs me:  He was read the riot act.

Oh well, it was a good training exercise. I have a few wild males around here to tame. Thinking I should take a cue from the Blue Jays – swoop down, peck some sense, and make them believe I’ll take an eye out if necessary. They meant business!

Can a cat be trained to override his limbic system? I may need some back-up.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley