We have bigger-sized problems

Author: natalie  //  Category: Issues, National

I don’t drink much soda pop, never have and I’m pretty certain I never will.

Most of it’s just too sweet for me, so when I do indulge it tends to be Diet 7-Up or Sprite Zero, but those supposedly have their perils, too.

But because New York’s Mayor Bloomberg banned “large” sodas—defined as featuring more than 16 ounces of the bubbly liquid—from restaurants, street cars and movie theaters, I want to walk the streets of New York sipping an entire jug of the most calorie-laden one I can find!

I get it. Obesity is a costly problem both economic and human. But research abounds that trying to rule and regulate such a thing is unlikely to have any substantive effect on public health or weight.

That aside, what’s more disturbing about the trend of Bloomberg, who has imposed other dietary regulations, is, well… I’ll let him tell it.

In speaking to the United Nations general assembly, he said that, “Governments at all levels must make healthy solutions the default social option.” Sigh.  He continued with, “That is ultimately government’s highest duty.” Really?

Again, I get it. Being too big for our collective britches is a big—pun intended—problem.  But this smacks —pun not intended—of government overreach. Allow me to Biggie-Size my sigh. SIGH.

Anyway, the more annoyed I got over the implications of sheeple accepting this drivel “for the public good”, I got to thinking: We have been hearing about our plus-sized, impending — and already here in many locales—epidemic for the better part of the last decade.

And while the problem started here, it’s no longer isolated to the United States. Worldwide waistlines are expanding. Scholarly folks who study such things are likening it to changes two centuries ago when Europeans shot up 30 centimeters or more in height.

Are we watching the human species go through an evolutionary change?

I’ll go off on a slight tangent and smooth some feathers: I’m not talking monkey-to-man evolution (although it could be well argued we’re devolving man-to-monkey, but they may insult primates . . . I can’t win) but rather changes in a species adapting to its environment.

And our environment is abundantly supplied with easily-accessible food . . . and couches to rest our tater-shaped selves on.  No one believes that’s going to be a positive for the human race.

Evolutionary changes are typically imperceptibly slow. But in modern fashion, it’s seemingly in fast forward. In a macabre way, it’s fascinating how in less than two generations we’re seeing changes that have previously taken hundreds or thousands of years.

Scientists say the increase in height 200 years ago stayed with us, and this expansion in girth will, too.  I suppose someone, somewhere has figured out how to keep supplying our seemingly insatiable appetites. I’m a little sad that I won’t live to see it all unfold.

Larger, hungrier minds will have to sort it all out. Because while I agonize over many Biggie-Sized problems, I’m quite happy to report that how much soda you drink never crosses my mind, nor should it.

© 2012 Natalie Whatley

Belaboring a point

Author: natalie  //  Category: Issues, National

In this 2012 election-year season all I can think about when the politicians get wound up is how ultimately it’s up to me . . . and you, too.

Of course I’m not talking about the major problems that plague our nation and even more broadly modern mankind, but rather our immediate day-in, day-out existence.

We have a lot of control and yet we’re all guilty at times of looking to others to improve our lot.

And as it turns out we all get this long end-of-summer weekend to celebrate and reflect on what it is that still keeps the majority of us in good standing with the universal law of hard work paying off.

Sophocles – one of the most influential ancient Greek writers who specialized in tragedy – got it right with a pretty basic comment: “Without labor nothing prospers.” Ain’t that the truth?

And I bet those of us gathered here are aware of how very tragic it is that some of our brethren don’t get it.

It’s a frustration that often makes smoke billow from my ears.

On the one hand I think too many have come to expect something for nothing, but if I scrape a little deeper it’s something even more sorrowful: Some folks have just plain never experienced the deep satisfaction that is independence and the ability to stand on one’s own two feet.

And I can’t imagine feeling that exhilaration not causing people to want another hit.

But anyway, tomorrow is a day set aside here in the good old U.S. of A to honor working people and celebrate the economic and social contributions as well as the achievements of American workers.

That American worker is seen the world over as a unique breed with polar opposites: We put in more work hours and spend less leisure time than our out-of-country counterparts, but yet I contend we also house some of the laziest on the planet.

Probably more of us fall in between than is realized.

And because I know so many of you reading are in the workforce (stay at home moms and caregivers count too!!) or have done your time and retired from it, I honor you today and celebrate your accomplishments and perseverance.

You are what makes the world go ‘round.

So, kick back tomorrow and do something relaxing.

Take a break from your job, whatever it may be and for heaven’s sake don’t listen to any political punditry about how you need to vote.

We all know it’s a bunch of hot air, anyway because as my daddy likes to tell me, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

And I get suspicious of anyone who tries to convince me otherwise.

Hard work works out just fine every time it’s tried.

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

© 2012 Natalie Whatley

 
 

The time traveler will get my vote

Author: natalie  //  Category: Issues

Roughly three more months. I’m not sure I can take it.

I know I’m among friends . . . No, I consider you folks family, so I’ll get right to it and let you know straight out I’ve had one of those weeks where I’ve suffered sensory overload. Thusly, (love that word often used by the great Jim Finley who I’m honored to share this page with) as I sat down to pen this column a big, whopping nothing came directly to mind.

Oh, there’s plenty to talk and/or commiserate about, but it’s as if my mental pipes are clogged and no one thing really wants to break loose.

The Olympics: Sure, stories of great human feats buoyed by raw determination. I don’t even feel qualified to comment as I can’t recall ever making or asking my family to make such huge sacrifices for any similar lofty-level goal. Not to mention, I don’t really care to watch it all. TV is a colossal time waster in my book.

The Colorado movie-theater shootings: The story grows more tragic each day. My heart and prayers go out to the families suffering over loss of life and a forever-changed existence. But I’ve also been pretty angered over the gun-control rhetoric I knew the tragedy would spawn. All I’m going to say is some people just don’t get it. And I know those folks will think the same about me. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

“Oprah shows off her natural hair: Winfrey ditches her usual sleek tresses for her magazine’s makeover issue”.  At first I thought this was totally undeserving of mention, but it speaks of what I was going through as I tried to distract myself from the influx of what today we call TMI . . . too much information.

Tuesday was a run-off election day and I can’t recall any other political contest that has annoyed me more. I have a sneaking suspicion the run-up to the Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2012 is going to tax my patience even further.

By this past week I was exhausted by hauling in the daily mailings that I swear were the same thing day after day. How much money was wasted and the landfill further filled by stuffing mailboxes for two months straight?

I would have incinerated it all myself, but my neighborhood — and the City of Baytown for that matter—frowns upon large bonfires in a residential area. Although, roasting the mailers over an open . . . uh, never mind. I’m probably about to get myself in trouble.

Did they honestly think I’d read all that? And even if I did, this Jane Q. Public has no way of knowing who to believe. It all sounded so elementary-playground childish. Sigh. If only the stakes weren’t so high.

And as if the above mail chore didn’t have my ire adequately stirred when all I wanted was some reprieve from the incessant whining, my phone rang constantly—even after my bedtime. Yeah, the guy or gal who annoys me the most is sure to win my vote. (Eye roll)

The most maddening part of all: I was “awarded” all that attention simply because I vote . . . every time, consistently, in the “off” years, and in primaries. It’s a sad state, but it’s almost enough to make me stop. That I feel that way angers me even more.

Roughly three more months.  I’m not sure I can take it.

But I’ll vote for the candidate who sends mail and calls promising to take me straight to the day after the November election.

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

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

I’ll never forget

Author: natalie  //  Category: Issues, National

Ten years ago this morning I stood stunned in K-Mart’s electronics department trying to understand the images on at least 30 television screens airing the exact same footage: a second plane hitting The Twin Towers in New York. It seems like a lifetime ago, and it seems like yesterday.

Having already heard of the first plane “accidentally” hitting on the drive over, I suppose I knew at precisely the same time every other American did: We were under attack. The first one was no accident.

It was a beautiful September morning, much like the ones we’ve enjoyed this past week. The day had promise as I embarked on a shopping excursion in preparation for my son Jeremy’s fifth birthday party scheduled that weekend.

I was on a mission to snag a radio shown in the sales flyer for the birthday boy and gather up party supplies to boot.

My usual modus operandi would have been to make a beeline to secure the on-sale radio first, but for some reason I attended to the other items on my shopping list instead. That turned out to be a wise move.

Watching the fiery explosion and smoke billowing out of the high rises, knowing the horrific fate of the air passengers and building inhabitants, I no more could have remembered what I was there for or even comprehended my own handwritten list.  

Something as important as celebrating the birth of one of my own children all of the sudden seemed trivial and selfish. (Of course it wasn’t, but that’s how I felt at the moment. And by the way, I got the radio. ) And as bad as it was; the nightmare wasn’t over.

Tearing my eyes away from the suffering of fellow Americans, I believe I floated up front to pay. The entire store was eerily quiet.

I vividly remember a whispered conversation with the older lady working behind the register. I can still see her shaken, angry face. She had been around far longer and experienced more than me. I’ll never forget how her immediate resolve assuaged my fear.

Upon arriving home I went straight in and turned on the TV. It didn’t matter what channel . . . the broadcast was the same on every network. I sat down and stared helplessly through teary eyes while trying to wrap my mind around the new news and images of The Pentagon having also been hit. Then came the crash of Flight 93 in a Pennsylvania field.

In George Bush’s book Decision Points, he talks about that day and what was going through his mind as the events unfolded: “The first plane could have been an accident. The second was definitely an attack. The third was a declaration of war.”

If there was any silver lining to be seen, it was a unified America in the days following.  

A mere two years later, singer Darryl Worley had a smash hit with the title “Have You Forgotten?”

Have you forgotten, how it felt that day? To see your homeland under fire and her people blown away. Have you forgotten, when those towers fell? We had neighbors still inside goin through a living hell.

You took all the footage off my TV. Said it’s too disturbin for you and me. It’ll just breed anger is what the experts say. If it was up to me I’d show it everyday.

Amen, brother.

God bless the families who lost a loved one that day, the President and his staff who steered us through some of our darkest hours, the first responders, and the soldiers who continue the fight for our freedom.

I’ll never forget.

© 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

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

Catch some happiness

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, Issues, National

There isn’t a day, week, or month left on the calendar that isn’t set aside to observe, commemorate, or otherwise notice a cause, individual, or group. Some are worthy of ignoring, such as National Grouch Day, but one commemorative week I was unaware of needs a little attention.

The second week of November, which will officially begin tomorrow, is Pursuit of Happiness Week. I know it sounds a little odd, but the purpose is to remind everyone, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, that all men and women “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalieanable rights, that among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It would be unpatriotic not to recognize this one. You’ve got from November 8 – 14 to perform a search. Feel very fortunate if you don’t have to look long or far.

Happiness is defined in different ways depending on who’s providing the definition, but Webster’s says it is a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, or joy. And pursuit: Until I looked it up, I never realized an important piece that sets it aside from simply following something is the intent to catch.

Since I have been on a mission of sorts to find my place in the world while my children explore the things that bring them joy, it occurred to me that sometimes hunting for happiness involves not chasing after some things, or possibly bringing other things to an end. If capturing some empty space opens up a spot for something that makes me smile, why not?

Those in the business of studying happiness say much of our disposition in that regard is genetic and to a large degree formed during childhood. It’s also a lot of work. But the good news: Happiness is a choice. It’s tricky for sure, but we all know it’s possible as most of us are acquainted with someone who is happy despite some crummy circumstances.  Some say life is 10 percent events and 90 percent how we react to those events. I believe there’s a great deal of truth there.

Once we decide ourselves happy, we have a real proverbial bucket of cold water to deal with in a phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation. I know, big words for a Saturday, but you’ll thank me for explaining how it works. Knowing is half the battle. Maybe you can keep this from dampening any new-found joy.

Hedonic adaptation occurs because humans are very adaptable – some of us more than others— and as soon as something better than our “normal” becomes habit or a routine part of our day, it loses its shine so to speak. Think past lottery winners who manage to become miserable despite having money troubles wiped away.  And raise your hand if you’ve reached a goal you thought was going to bring the epitome of happiness, only to find that happy feeling was short-lived. We’re always raising the bar. I don’t know when the concept of contentment was lost, but I know I don’t see enough of it – too much of the grass-is-greener syndrome going around if you ask me.

Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project” says that one way to combat hedonic adaptation is to cut back on luxurious enjoyment. (That almost sounds un-American.) Also, try stopping each day and just being grateful for the things in your life.  Avoid including external things – look to your inner resources. Take pleasure in the little things.

Get out there and go after something delightful . . . and intend on catching it!

© 2009 Natalie Whatley

Jack and I are sick of tricks

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, Issues, National

Happy Halloween! I hope this finds you all scaring up some fun – even if you don’t officially celebrate. It’s difficult to escape all that surrounds what has become a cauldron filled with a mixed brew of beliefs and customs.

That said an entire industry has been built around the day and people’s enjoyment of fear. To be fair, there is also a whimsical side – adults would rather not be awakened by frightened children – complete with festive thank-goodness-it’s-finally-fall fun.  There’s something for everyone.

Listening to the radio for a few minutes will garner several locations within driving distance where you can pay to enter and enjoy a fearful adrenaline rush. Those venues come with names like Phobia, known for featuring clowns of all things; Screamworld, and of course all the haunteds  . . . woods, houses, etc.  I suppose phobophobiacs, those who have a fear of fear, avoid those. I’ve never attended any, but have heard the scariest parts are often the lines and wait to go through. No thanks.

If you’re one who would rather place your money on actual goods versus an experience, retail data shows Halloween only second to Christmas in home décor and the third largest party day of the year. Those in the business of making a profit off the day are quite spirited by the fact that despite the lagging economy, most of us were in the mood to spend more this year than last Halloween.  

Retailer Steven Silverstein, President of Spirit Halloween costume stores, says sales increase by 30 percent when Halloween falls on a Saturday and that Halloween should be officially moved to the last Saturday in October, regardless of the date. He and like-minded individuals descended on Capitol Hill earlier this month asking Congress to do just that. I can think of other things I want my elected officials working on.

Silverstein’s movement termed “Halloweekend” is currently circulating a petition. He claims “the recession can be ended, jobs created and Halloween will just be more fun”. While a staunch believer in capitalism and free markets, I’m not so sure this could get us out of the mess we’re in. I like his spirit, though – far better than the apparition of our government officials announcing just this week that it appears the recession is over.

Yes, the economy grew at 3.5 percent in the third quarter, ending four straight quarters of contracting economic activity. But . . . and it’s a big BUT . . . that “growth” was spurred by brisk federal spending and government-supported spending on cars and homes.  Think Cash for Clunkers and federal tax credits for first-time homebuyers. Sigh. Those willing to remove the masks are already stating it will be difficult to sustain such a recovery after government support for the programs end. Is it really a treat if we trick ourselves?

On a much lighter note, if you will be hosting trick-or-treaters at your home, be on the lookout for the vampire-costume trend.  We have once again (it goes in waves), due to the popularity of some books and movies, become entranced by vampires. But it’s different this time. They don’t look so scary any more. In fact, they’re quite good-looking and overtly seductive – be careful not to look them in the eyes.

After costumes, it wouldn’t be Halloween without jack-o-lanterns. Have you seen some of the elaborate designs? I’m amazed at what some can do with small tools and too much free time. I mean, it is going to rot. My children bought some rather large pumpkins to carve and plan on scooping out the innards of one and draping it out of the mouth to appear as though Mr. Jack O’Lantern has either a) partaken of too many confectionary delights, or b) spent a little time with me discussing the “end” of the recession. I know just how he feels. Have a Happy Halloween!

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© 2009 Natalie Whatley