A Picture Perfect Picture That’s Not Perfect

Why do my neighbors insist on silly things? I already struggle with admitting I’m a stay-at-home mother who drives a minivan and knows how to bake. Just when I think I’ve made some headway in my self-esteem because I set something decorative on the mantel, another woman posts her Taste of Home setup on TwoFacebook.

white-ceramic-mug-1693652.jpg

Not that I envy her or anything.

Sort-of.

Mostly, I feel indignant. Indignant, I say! Hours of decorating are a waste of time and money, plus a psychological strain on the children who are not allowed to touch any of it.

Don’t believe me? In a fit of domesticity last Easter, I decided to make a holiday wreath. We were out of home-grown grapevines and lacked the time to paint them with off-white chalk paint, so I purchased a pre-made wreath. I also lacked the materials or time to cast my own swirled pastel eggs in resin, so bought those while we were there. And, yes -I picked up some ribbon (silk worms are notoriously difficult to breed).

Okay, okay. I got a glue gun, too. Sheesh. I used their coupon!

Anyway -two hours later, I had my Easter wreath. From a distance, you couldn’t even see the dripping entrails of hot glue or a few bits of burned skin I’d also adhered. For my efforts, I figured I spent about $30.

20191209_142340

…which is why my other door decorations have come from Goodwill or Wal-mart.

Actually, the autumn one was half-off at a boutique. There’s no way the person who made it ended up making a profit. She should’ve saved her hot glue and fingers and taken a leaf from my book.

I was thinking about my practicality versus my neighbors’ insanity yesterday. I had just offered tickets to a highly sought-after event, to which a friend answered she could not attend. She really wanted to, but they were decorating for the ward Christmas party that night.

Why couldn’t she turn her fellow decorators down? Why couldn’t they do it the morning of the event?

Why not skip trying to change a church meetinghouse gymnasium into Dicken’s Christmas village* entirely?

Screenshot_2019-12-09-14-28-48

This is probably why I’m not on the decorating committee.

And, did you remember I mentioned psychological strain on children? What good are mantels, wreaths, and Dickens when all the children want is somewhere to sit? They certainly can’t do that on a pure white couch, accented by mirrored surfaces and offset by homespun metals and woods.

Joanna Gaines

Swiped from The Master.

Maybe I’m coming from a house of boys, where we can’t even keep pillows on the couch or Nerf bullets from ‘accent’ing all the surfaces. Or maybe, as I like to think, I’m the sane one in the neighborhood.

 

*For the curious, they are actually intending to do this.

—–

Photo Credit:
Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels
and Chelsea Owens
and Joanna Gaines’ Instagram

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Guess What? I’m a Mommy …Again

I did it! Well -the doctors did. Yesterday, around 13:44, the obstetrics surgical team extracted my fifth boy.

He weighed 6 lbs 4 oz (rounded up) and measured 19 inches long.

I’m not allowed to go into labor, so we scheduled the operation at 37 weeks. All in all, this has been the best C-Section recovery I’ve had. I can only attribute that to the skill of the team, the healthiness of my body, and to the many prayers I know people offered on our behalf.

Because of privacy reasons, I dislike posting pictures online. Since I know he’ll change rapidly and you’re all DYING to see, however, here are two I took this morning:

Baby Five Top (2).jpg

“Hello. The world is bright and cold. I’m not certain I like it yet.”

Baby Five Full Body (2)

A pen, for comparison.

We haven’t agreed on a name yet, but I keep that information private as well. 🙂

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Butcher (Carrot Ranch TUFF Rodeo)

TUFF is a contest where the story goes through a first draft of 99 words, a parsing down to 59 words, a butchering down to 9 words, then a revisit to 99 words again.

99 Words

Jacqueline studied the tiny, harmless beans in her palm. Was it her imagination that they glowed, or did she need a hand-washing as much as Mama always said?

“I tell ye,” the old peddler said, “They’s magic!”

Magic or no, she couldn’t keep staring. Jacqueline pocketed her treasures. Yanking at Bessie’s rope, she headed on to the butcher’s.

Mama wouldn’t be impressed by anything short of a month of food, Jacqueline knew. She shrugged to herself. At least she’d haggled the peddler down to a tongue and brisket. Who knows what mama would’ve said about losing a whole cow?

—–

59 Words

Jacqueline studied the beans. They rested against her dirty palm, seeming to glow.

“They’s magic,” the peddler insisted.

Mama wouldn’t agree, any more than she would to strangers or dirty hands. Jacqueline sighed, pulled at Bessie’s rope, and headed on to the butcher’s.

At least she’d haggled down to a brisket. Mama’d never agree to losing a whole cow.

—–

9 Words

Jacqueline wondered if beans were magic enough for Mama.

—–

99 Words, Final

Jacqueline studied the beans in her dirty palm. Was the peddler right? Were the beans glowing? Maybe Mama was the honest one, and all she needed was a good hand-washing.

“I’m telling ye,” the old peddler insisted, “They’s magic.”

Magic or no, she couldn’t stand around staring. Jacqueline pocketed her dubious treasures and took up Bessie’s rope. Mama wouldn’t be impressed by anything if they were late for the butcher’s.

Jacqueline shrugged to herself. At least she’d talked the peddler down to a tongue and a brisket. Who knows what Mama would have said about losing a whole cow?

—–

Typed and entered for Carrot Ranch’s TUFF Rodeo competition: Beans.

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

Ye Olde Ennui (Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest #2)

“Space: the midlife-crisis frontier.”

“Oh, Nose Bender, you were as bored as I.”

The long-faced android spared 1.356 seconds on his companion before returning to navigation.

“Not that we’ve seen much diversion,” the human assented, “But-”

*Pew!* *Whoosh!* A flash of light and jarring of stabilizers drew both to the porthole. There, defying taste and physics, wobbled a space-worthy Merchantman.

“Avast, ye dogs!” cackled over their speakers. “I be the Heartbreak Kid. Prepare to be-”

Android and man exchanged glances.

“…Thee next contestant on ‘The Plank is Right!'”

“It appears, Captain Bodacious,” his companion noted, “You have your diversion.”

—–

Typed and entered for Carrot Ranch‘s third Rodeo Contest: pirate game show with three specific bull names. I’m not sure why they were also in space, but why not add one more thing to 99 words?

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Young Will for Prezident (Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest #1)

They say Young Will came tearin’ into this here world like a bolt a thunder. His mama woulda agreed; ‘ceptin’ she’d add that he were more like bulls through china once his legs growed and ‘e started runnin’.

And run Will did! He just about run everyplace -walls notwithstandin’.

No; nothing or nobody stood in his way. I reckon that’s why ‘e didn’t ‘llow somethin’ as teensy as impossible to slow ‘im. When ‘e heard anyone could be prezident, he went right home and ‘nnounced he were next.

That’s why, on ‘nauguration day, his mama was the least surprized.

—–

Type and entered for Carrot Ranch‘s first Rodeo Contest: tall tale.

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Ellie’s End: My Winning Entry

Last year, I helped judge one of the contests for Carrot Ranch. Reading through the entrants taught me two things:

  1. People don’t read instructions very well.
  2. More people ought to enter!

I therefore challenged myself to enter all of the contests Charli posed for 2019. Imagine my surprise when she posted one of my stories as a finalist. I thought I’d place in all of them!

In all seriousness, entering contests is difficult and subjective and …wait. You all know this because of my Terrible Poetry thingie every week. Charli knows. A superhuman in her own right, she posted a spot-on description of writing, contests, revisions, and letdown.

Read it.

Oh, and here is my ONE entry that ‘won.’ I’ll schedule one contest entry for each of the following days, now that we’re allowed to.

—–

Ellie prided herself on her independence. Nothing, no one could affect her -certainly not internet whispers or radio station warnings.

She left for work with her earbuds in. She returned to her lonely apartment in the same way. She never listened to the wind, the silenced birds, nor the ever-increasing beeping of impending doom.

In fact, one might say that Ellie was the least prepared for the aliens when they came. No matter -hers was a quick and painless death, immediately decomposing in the stomach of Earth’s attackers. It was those silly survivalists who dragged out humanity’s inevitable demise.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

The Dice Store: Things I’ve Learned from Online Retail

I shambled down to work in our online dice store this morning. There they sat: shelf after shelf of opaque, transparent, swirled, pearlized, and speckled.

Pearlized Gold and Black 4 Sided Dice

Above the desk hung the Reaper miniatures.

Kieron, Ranger

Upon the far wall and beneath the regular d4 through d60 dice nestled our specialty sets, like stone or crystal-shaped.

16mm Solid Metal Dice

And I knew where they all were.

Mostly.

I recalled those days when we first purchased the website, and did not have such order. Instead, we pawed through plastic bags we’d heaped on a spare bookcase and shelf in the barely-lit basement. We often purchased a grab bag of dice from our main supplier, then spent ‘family time’ sorting through a giant pile.

Those dice would then need to have their picture taken and be entered into the computer. This proved a wasteful process overall, since the dice were often leftovers from product runs that the manufacturer would not continue to make.

It’s only taken me a decade, but I feel I’m starting to get the hang of the dice store. In fact, today I thought to create a Top Ten List of Things I’ve Learned:

  1. I have no idea what our customers do with their dice, but almost all of them have awesome e-mail addresses.
    “What do people use the dice for?” is a common question I’m asked. The honest truth is that I don’t know. I assume sets are for gaming, odd dice are for gaming, and …well, the expensive sorts are for gaming. See? No idea.
    Clear Red Double 12 Sided Dice
    No matter what they use their dice for, though, our clientele are clearly awesome people. Even back when most people had e-mail addresses for business purposes only, I noticed our customers favored epic varieties.
  2. Shipping costs money.
    From the boxes to the filler to the cost of shipment itself, we usually break about even or at a loss. Most people assume we’re gouging them (thanks, Amazon) by charging a flat rate of $4.95, but the smallest-sized package pays the United States Postal Service around $3.
    A word of advice if you suspect gouging: buy more if you can or need to. You’ll get the most value for the shipment cost.
  3. Companies (like ours) do get discounts on supplies, shipments, and products.
    When regular humans buy anything at a store, they pay retail cost. Places like Wal-mart don’t pay the same as their customers; the most common markup is double the wholesale price. Therein the profit lies, yes?
    Whenever I think of all the hands a product travels through from factory to retailer, I mentally tack on what each ‘hand’ charges. It’s sickening sometimes.
  4. China is cheating.
    This could be a post in itself. With the success of Kickstarter, many amateur businesses post ideas for dice designs and then arrange for companies in China to make them. China, in turn, spams out e-mails to businesses like ours, offering those products to us at a discount rate. Basically, they take the designs and run.
    Not only that, but they downright lie on customs forms in order to save money. We’ve had it happen with everything we’ve purchased for some trial runs of new products this year.
  5. Despite almost everything being online, a lot of business relationships are built by talking or meeting.
    You know: old school. My husband and I are still surprised when we have to call a company and/or their website is terrible.
  6. There’s a die for that.
    Size Comparison Dice
    Visitors to our store express surprise at all the different dice we carry. I mention that we might sell around 10% of those in one retailer’s catalog; about half of another who only makes two varieties. When people see everything from real Tiger’s Eye sets to large cubes with hearts, I can see why some assume we’ve got everything.
    We don’t. There are many, many more options out there.
  7. Stickers are real time-savers.
    Our latest printer types up everything we need (postage, addresses, and tracking information) on one label. I love it!!
  8. People like free stuff.
    Back when we had more random dice to dispose of, we offered one free die with a $20 purchase. One time a customer complained because her free die had a defect. I’m not sure if anyone purchased dice specifically to get a free one, but I was surprised about the one complaint.
    Of course, I like free stuff, too.
  9. Businesses often fill specific requests.
    We will. Want a note to your recipient? A blue d12 instead of green one? A discount coupon? How about getting your gaming candle cushioned in bubble wrap? We’ll probably do it.
    Granted, we’d have to stop doing freebies if everyone asked, but we’re cool to fulfill the odd one now and again.
  10. The customer is always right.
    This was a hard lesson for me the first few times someone demanded something, like that woman and her replacement free die. Still, makes sense. The customers are the ones keeping the business in business so, as long as they don’t ask for the moon, we’ll keep ’em happy.
    12-Sided Signs of the Planets Astrology Dice

Do you have any questions about dice? Running an online business? Painting a minifig? How about whether it’s a good idea to leap over a burning troll during a dungeon raid?

I may have a die to help answer that.

—————-

Check out what I wrote this week:
Wednesday, November 20: “Utah Mormons: What Do You Want to Know?” I’m still open to questions.

Thursday, November 21: Threwback to that time I wrote an epic poem, “The Ballad of the Garbage Truck.”

Friday, November 22: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. One year!! Congratulations to Giselle, Bruce, and Michael!

Saturday, November 23: Slipped in one, last complaint about pregnancy in “What Pregnancy is Really Like.”

Sunday, November 24: Nothing

Monday, November 25: “That Awkward First Date,” in response to Carrot Ranch’s prompt.

Tuesday, November 26: “Since the Bombs Fell: Six.” Although I’d love to stay and write in the post-apocalyptic world, I ended this series before it mutated out of control.

Wednesday, November 27: Today.

I also posted on my motherhood site. I wrote “Thanksgiving Dinner, a poem.”

 

All photos ©2019 Kevin Owens and Game Master Dice

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Since the Bombs Fell: Six

Continued from One, then Twothen Threethen Fourthen Five.

Finn’s entrance into the fallout shelter was therefore not a graceful one. Their imminent pursuers, his rescuer’s voice, and her near-pushing him in order to secure the door befuddled him. Patrick was better at instant decisions; perhaps he would know what to do and wouldn’t be walking at near-gunpoint to a foreign elevator shaft.

Perhaps.

Finn stumbled again. “We ‘ave to get b’low,” his companion said. She activated the elevator, then gestured to enter once its heavy cross-doors opened. Finn nodded and went first. She followed, turning a key in the wall and pressing a red button.

They dropped to a chorus of pained and rusting gears. Patrick’d be able to fix those, Finn thought. And the entry. Thinking of his brother worried him. Even one leg down, the rash young man might go looking for Finn if he didn’t return. Muties made the surface dangerous, yes; but there were ways to get back if Finn needed. Not all the train tunnels lay in ruin nor all the rooftops proved unsound, he knew.

They stopped. The door ground open to reveal a dim and untidy living area. The layout resembled Finn’s, albeit in greater disrepair. He made a mental note to thank Mary, should he see her again, for insisting they fix up and clean their post-apocalyptic warren.

“Home sweet home,” she’d said, once things were in order. She’d smiled that charming smile of hers, the one she’d borne since Mother’d first noticed Mary wasn’t -as Father said- “Quite all there.”

After exiting the elevator, his companion sealed the door and punched at the filtration system. It whirred like a hoarse donkey, but worked. She then began extracting herself from her breathing gear. Finn shrugged and did the same with his. He felt this an odd game to play with a stranger; making himself more vulnerable, piece by piece. If she wanted to kill him, however, she could have shot him back at the hospital.

He set his breathing system on the counter. His helmet followed suit. He turned as the woman did the same, her auburn hair falling sweaty and loose. It rested in a disheveled braid and framed a pretty but scowling face.

“All right, then,” she said, setting her helmet next to his. She rested her right hand on her hip and studied him. Then her eyes widened. “Finn?”

“Aye,” Finn answered. He smiled a crooked half-grin at his former girlfriend. Of course she’d been skulking around the hospital; they’d first met there. He’d been a patient and she a surgeon. “An’ how you doin’, Livvy?”

Olivia Green could not reply. She looked at Finn again, who wished he’d shaved before surfacing. “Where …Where’s Patrick?” Olivia gasped. “Oh, no! Where’s Mary?”

Finn waved a calming hand. “They’re fine, though waitin’, I’d wager.” He smiled fully. “Would you like to go to them?”

THE END

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

That Awkward First Date

“So, whaddya like to do?” Dumb! Why did you ask that?

“Um, well, I like reading.” Crap! Now he’s going to think I sit at home and knit.

“Oh. Reading.” And probably knitting.

Say something; say something. “So, what do you like to do?”

“Me?” Think of something impressive. “Uh; not much. Mostly I …” Impressive! “I …like movies.”

“Oh.”

She’s not impressed.

“I …I like movies, too.” Like everybody does “What’s a favorite?”

Say it. You’ve bombed the date anyway. “Actually; Big Trouble in Little China.

What?? “No way. Me, too!”

“No way!”

“Way.”

“So… wanna go get Chinese?”

lily-banse-9eH2QtfQAjI-unsplash.jpg

Enacted for Carrot Ranch‘s prompt this week: Romance

November 21, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a romance. Focus on the relationship between two people. Build tension and end on a happy(ish) note. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 26, 2019. Use the comment section [on Charli’s site] to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Photo Credit: Lily Banse

©2019 Chelsea Owens