Washroom Stories

Oddly enough, today I wish to reminisce about bathrooms. The idea came from Irene Waters, the illustrious writer and memoirist.

Her suggestion came at the same time a friend of mine is on vacation, a friend who keeps posting ratings for the various bathrooms she’s visiting. Little did I know that this is an activity she’s indulged in for a few years, supposedly stemming from a terrible experience with one. To this, I can relate. I did not realize how crucial a good seat for relieving oneself became until my first cross-country drive in 2015.

It inspired a star-studded poem:

I’ll tour this grand old land of mine;
I’ll drive from ocean to sea.
I’ll walk where millions walked before,
But,
I’ll not sit where they all …do their business.

Unlike some of the older participants in Irene’s prompt, I haven’t lived through a drastic era of change regarding toilets. Every house I’ve lived in has had what I have now: an indoor model that flushes with the aid of plumbing that enters and leaves the house. No water closets or outhouses. I do not believe I’ve ever lived somewhere with a septic tank.

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Yes, I’m spoiled. And young, I suppose.

I have stayed in less-posh situations. I recall a summer camp one year with limited water and sewage supplies. We were advised to follow the old poem, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”

My family also spent a couple of summers at a cabin in the woods with its very own outhouse. I still recall the dread of midnight nature calls, shaking my flashlight through the dark and whooshing trees on the path and out to the pit-with-a-door. Due to active imaginations, two of my children are currently afraid of using the toilet alone. They said they imagine a head poking out of the hole and biting them. I don’t know what they would have done with the outhouse in the woods…

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For my part, my only childhood fear of toilets involved imagining an alligator in one. I’ve never lived in Florida nor visited beyond the airport, but had heard a news story to the effect in elementary school. I also feared for spiders and such. I think, as a female, one’s fears are more justified since one always has to sit.

The one advancement in washrooms I have experienced in my lifetime is the automation of its basic functions. Automatic toilets, sinks, soaps, and blowers make using the bathroom a breeze. They also made for many, many times of standing over a peeing child to block the sensor so he does not get flushed on before he’s ready.

In a somewhat-related experience, I recall a music trip to San Francisco in my senior year of high school. For the first time, I encountered public stores that did not offer a public restroom. Also for the first time; I was directed to a public toilet, on the street corner, that utilized two-way mirrors as walls. When inside, a visitor could view everything outside as if he were not within a building at all. My childhood experience of knowing one could see through this glass by getting close did not encourage any desire to use this facility.

I suppose, like my friend, I also note and rank vacation bathrooms. When in Rome, eh?

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Photo Credits:
Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay
Image by Luciana P. from Pixabay
Image by David Rinehart from Pixabay

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

I Finally Donned the Sorting Hat

I remember when Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone was first published. My former sixth grade teacher said to me, “There’s an excellent book that’s just come out on the market. You have to read it.” She has good taste, strong opinions, and more than a little experience with literature.

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It was she who read our class The Turbulent Term of Tyke TylerThe Log of the Ark, and The Wheel on the School. She allowed us to pick our own spelling words to be tested on and held us to a self-chosen monthly book-reading quota. In her classroom I read nearly every book on her shelves -and that’s saying something.

Knowing this, I read the book she recommended. I loved it. I read the others as they were released as well, pouncing upon them as soon as I could.

I know there are many to whom the series is not so impressive. My own husband has only read the first one. He and his sister began reading the second together, and he hated Dobby so much he hasn’t continued from there. One of my college English professors told us the Harry Potter books were only ‘good;’ not ‘great.’

I also know there are many to whom the series is life. They know the characters, creatures, spells, and trivia by heart. They know which floor of Hogwarts one might find: the Room of Requirement, Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, or the entrance to Slytherin’s common room. Those Potterheads’ greatest wish is that they will get a letter in the mail announcing them as accepted pupils to the greatest school of witchcraft and wizardry…

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If I had been introduced to the series after its popularity, I’m not sure I’d be so fond of it. Hype and popularity ruin a thing for me.

Whether or not that’s the case, I will admit to falling more into the admirer category than the hater one. I’d love a wand and magic powers, yes; but much of my love for the series is Anglophilia. Blame my ancestry, perhaps. For that reason and the …insanity of the die-hard fans, I hesitate in admitting my affection.

So it is that, last night, I finally took an online quiz to determine which house I would be in. I did not get a song sung by a hat nor a voice in my ear; I instead answered a few questions regarding personality.

Out of curiosity, have you a guess to which I was assigned? I had. It wasn’t what I expected.

I definitely had two that I preferred not to be placed in. -Which is another thing I still do not understand about Potterheads. If you’ve read the series closely and if you are such fans, surely you would not want to publish to the world that you were placed in Hufflepuff. Right?

Everyone says Hufflepuff are a lot o’duffers. -Hagrid

Back to me. I’d like to think that I’d be sorted into Gryffindor. I’d like to think that maybe I’m less brave now because I have more self-preservation as part of being a mother, so that would be a possibility at the age of admittance (eleven years old).

But really, I was even quieter and more self-reserved then -unless someone ticked me off.

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So I’m in Ravenclaw. ‘S probably right. And, that result’s better than the time I took the Which Disney character are you most like? at Disneyland and was given Maleficent.

The Importance of Trying Times

Last week, I had surgery. It was elective, so I’m not dying or anything. I just thought I ought to finally tell someone besides my immediate family. Also, ’twas the prompt for the first Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest I’m hosting (be sure to enter; you’ve got a day or so).

Because of this surgery, I haven’t been feeling up to snuff. That fact sounds a bit obvious, but was not part of my pre-surgery planning. I had the house clean, meals set up, rides arranged, babysitting for the day, and a prescription filled for heavy-duty Ibuprofen. In terms of what my recovery would be like, I think I thought I would just veg and write for NaNoWriMo afterwards.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found very comfortable positions to write from. Between the lingering tailbone recovery and the fact that the surgery was done near my midsection, I haven’t been able to wedge a typing machine in a sustainable place long enough to attempt much longer than a short story.

I have also been very tired.

-Not that surgery and recovery are completely alien to me. I’ve had an appendectomy and three C-Sections. Like pregnancy, however, I figured I survived operations in the past and was likely to handle another one just fine.

Then I get up and try walking.

By the by, if you’re considering an abdominal area incision, I’ve some quick recommendations:

  1. First, have people and/or devices around to retrieve things that keep obeying gravity.
  2. Purchase a heating pad for your back. Walking around like Igor for a day or so will really cramp up your muscles.
  3. Get a belly strap. I’ve used this amazing device after my C-Sections, and I rush-ordered one from Amazon last week after I could sit up long enough to do so.
  4. Surround yourself with pillows.
  5. Do not cough.
  6. Do not laugh.
  7. For the love of all that is or isn’t holy, DO NOT SNEEZE.
  8. Have a surface nearby that can hold your water, pain medicine, food plate, socks, stretchy pants, strap, ice pack, cell phone, etc.
    Turns out, I really need a wider nightstand.
  9. Accept any offers of help! We have so many leftovers from dinners brought in, but now I don’t have to worry about lunches, either.
  10. I can’t think of anything else, but the list looked too short with nine items.

I’d like to say I’ve at least devoted my hours of recovery to introspection or philosophizing in preparation for writing, but that isn’t true, either. The last few days I’ve actually gotten a few armor set upgrades for Link in “Breath of the Wild.” Dragon hunting is a great time-killer and now I’m pretty much an expert on where they spawn.

I’ve not had the memory or focus capacity to create. Sorry.

So, let’s end this apologetic blog post by giving a short Week In Review. I know it’s Wednesday, but unconventional is my thing.

Wednesday, November 7: Track Memory, my submission to a contest that I should have waited till the 16th to post. Sorry, Charli.
Thursday, November 8: Skinwalkers, XLI.
Friday, November 9: On the Brink, a poem I wrote just before going under the knife and scheduled ahead, thinking, What if I die and this posts the next day and everyone is like, Whaaa-?
I also announced my intent to have a weekly contest.
Saturday, November 10: Official Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest start. YAY!
Sunday, November 11: The Apple Pie from the Same Tree, my real-life experience written for Carrot Ranch’s blog prompt.
Monday, November 12: Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-Two.
Tuesday, November 13: Inspirational quote by Neil Gaiman.
And, my little contribution posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.
Today, November 14: This post. 🙂

Happy Wednesday or Whatever Day You Read This. May you have more mobility than I!

Track Memory

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Anticipation clung to my twitching legs. A girl nearby hopped; I copied. Another stretched, as did I.

We pretended to ignore the waiting barriers. We’d glance to the nearest, flit to the next and next and next, then end at the finish line.

Too soon, I heard, “Runners, take your mark.”

“Se-e-e-e-et!”

*POP!*

Out of the blocks, I ran to the first hurdle.

Fell.

And sat and crumpled and cried.

Then, felt an arm about my shoulders. Heard a repeated lullaby of encouragement from a onetime friend.

“You won,” she reminded, “By not hesitating.

“And, tomorrow, you’ll run again.”

 

Written for Carrot Ranch Literary Society’s #2 Contest: Memoir.

Pity Party of One, Please

Some days even an entire bar of Symphony chocolate doesn’t help.

Not for lack of trying, mind you.

I ate the first row to move past the constant pain in my lower gluteus region. The second went toward a HAZMAT-type situation regarding dirty dishes. The third disappeared sometime between telling children to sit back down at dinner and get back in the shower; you’re still soapy. I removed the fourth row of toffee-filled delight from the wrapper when the husband and I had a loud ‘discussion’ just before bed.

Problem is, I just found out that I wasn’t a finalist in a writing competition. I’d allowed myself to think I had a chance.

And there’s no fifth row of chocolate.

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Life Lessons, The Hard Way

I remember my first in-the-car auto collision like it was a mere eight years ago, because it was. I was stopped behind a midsize vehicle in my sedan when *WHUMP!* -a teenage-powered Suburban rolled down the short hill and forgot to stop behind my car.

“Are you an artist or something?” the policeman teased as I attempted to draw the scene on the official record afterwards.

Laughing, I said, “No. Why?” He showed me the other two drivers’ simple, boxes-and-arrows graphics. “Oh.” And I’d been worried the insurance adjuster would notice the sloppiness of my miniature, expressionist Mazda Protegé.

I’d learned to call the police because an older lady attempted to remove our backseat door of that same Protegé just two years prior. I was parked at the time and had opened the door to unbuckle my two-year-old when she did it.

“Do you mind if we just settle outside of insurances?” She’d asked.

I had considered. Respect your elders and such. We were newlyweds, considering, and couldn’t afford much on our own. However, I opted to phone the police and our insurance.

I found out later she’d tried to contest it. She suggested that I opened my door right as she was pulling into an angled spot, from across double-yellow street lines, at an obtuse angle of entry.

Yep.

The collision I first mentioned was bad because our insurance decided to total the vehicle, and we were left to fill the void with an adequate replacement of equal- or lesser-value. I also experienced minor whiplash.

“I’m so sorry to hear about your accident!” My son’s preschool director said, once I finished with the police reports and continued on to retrieve my then-four-year-old. “I’ll bet that was a real headache,” she commiserated.

“Well,” I said with a straight face, “It was more of a pain in the neck.”

My humor would keep me company over the next few weeks as I learned exactly how fun whiplash was to recover from.

This story crossed my mind early this morning, around 3 a.m.

I’d risen to facilitate an answer to Nature’s call and had nearly not made it back to bed, or even erect again to hobble there.

This was in consequence of a foolish decision I made yesterday to forego a ladder and climb our garage shelves like some lesser-intelligenced simian ancestor.

Had I been said primal ape, the resulting slip and fall would have broken my perfect prehensile tail. Being a Homo sapiens, I instead damaged my rump (and my pride).

This time, my husband got to deliver the zinger. “I’ll bet that was a real pain in the butt!” he said. (Our youngest, age 4, was within earshot. Plus, my husband never curses.)

I’m sure he’s laughing now, as I type on my backlit phone to pass the hours before a health clinic opens.

I’d assumed only minor damage last night. Though slow, I’d managed to drive, walk to book group, and water the house plants. This (early!) morning, on the contrary, I was overcome with nausea upon standing -okay, upon upright hunching. I finally made it back to bed to beg a bit of bread and Ibuprofen from my drowsy helpmeet. And an ice pack.

I suspect I’ve broken my tail after all. We’ll find out in a mere four hours.

Not that I’m counting.

Mondays and Memories

The pictures people post of life are beautiful, artistic, happy, and well-framed. They are also less than a second of time, and 4×6 inches of a multi-perspective panorama. Better make them the best, right?

So, when you see this pile of mess I’ve included, you may wonder where the beauty is. Why would I post this?

For the story. For the reality.

This pile is what was left after my two youngest (ages 6 and 4) mixed and baked a chocolate cake completely by themselves. They did so after making grilled cheese sandwiches and (somewhat charred) tomato soup for dinner.

I’m not certain why the “cakes” boiled over into the oven since I was returning from martial arts at the time. My twelve-year-old suspects they severely over-measured the baking soda. My husband was with them and told me how excited the six-year-old was for me to come home to a surprise dinner and a whole cake!

If I were aiming for artistry, I could pose the bakers’ chocolate-stained faces in front of a symmetrically-messy counter. I could write that my darling, budding chefs made dinner and dessert. Then I could elaborate, saying we ended the evening singing songs of family unity and went to bed before sundown.

The problem is that the evening did not end with dessert and singing. The problem is that I tried to clean up the remains of amateur baking with the oven’s self-clean option. That method didn’t last long.

As I sit in our smoke-scented house and listen to the roaring fans downstairs, I can’t help but consider how much easier this day would have been if I’d not allowed them to create their dessert surprise.

Then, I remember what my husband said about our budding baker. “That was so sweet of you!” I tell my six-year-old as we tuck him in. “I am so impressed that you made dinner and a whole cake by yourself!” As he swells with self-pride I suggest gently, “Let’s make it together next time.”

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Who’s Driving?

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I was supremely confident as a child that I could drive a car. All I needed, I’d say, was the green flag from the government for seven-year-olds to operate a vehicle and I’d be off!

Oh, I had experience: My parents occasionally allowed me sit-on-their-lap steering privileges home from church on Sundays. And at fifteenish, I pulled a few turns unassisted in that same church parking lot.

Man, I was set!

By the age of nearly-sixteen, however, shift got real. My mother may have realized this, as I was enrolled in Driver’s Education at school and had grown tall enough to look her in the eye. One day she took me to a quiet neighborhood side street, steered herself for the worst, and told me we could switch places.

Even on the best of days (as in, post-op heavily-medicated) my mother does not handle other people driving. When my annoyingly patient and meticulous father is navigating the roads at a rate that would put a sloth to sleep, she’s frantically kicking the floor of the passenger side in phantom braking actions.

Turning the wheel fully over to me is on my mother’s list of Bravest Things She’s Ever Done.

For my part, I was counting on my first time driving as heading the list of Epic Life Adventures or Most Awesome Experiences Ever. Right? Instead, as I sat in front of the wheel completely on my own, I was gripped with terror. The awesome power of everything I was now in charge of washed over me and my mind blanked. My foot convulsed at the pedals the same way it did when I tried to navigate a sewing machine. The wheel was strangely hyper-sensitive. All of the cars parked calmly at the sides of the street were trying to leap out in front of me.

“I thought you knew how to drive!” My mother screamed as we jerked along and sashayed from right to left.

I thought I did, too, I told myself. I felt sad, confused, surprised, and hopeless. We pulled over and returned to our former roles. My confident plans of self-dependency and road freedomness dissolved forever. Maybe we should’ve used an automatic.

Luckily, my driving actually improved from there. I throw that out, in case anyone has determined to never set wheels on pavement when I’m out and about.

This morning, however, I was thinking about life. Specifically, if at all, I was pondering on my decades-long feeling of directionless discontent.

I kept thinking, Who’s driving, anyway?

I have been a stay-at-home mother for thirteen years, ever since being fired in the first trimester of my first pregnancy. I have felt motivated some days more than others. Lately, however, my life has felt completely out of my hands. My children cannot legally drive (yet), but I’ve put them and my husband in the front seat, crawled back over Cheerio crumbs and Hot Wheels cars to the dirty back of the car, and wondered why I keep getting car sick.

And yet, I don’t move.

What do I do?

Well… I pretend to be useful. I hand around a few snacks, break up fights, give the pretense of modeling good behavior, and pick up loose wrappers now and then. Oh, and sometimes I tell the person steering exactly what’s wrong with his driving.

As the tension in the car rises, I withdraw to less activity. I tell myself I am not sleepy when the suns sets over our dented hood, intentionally tiring myself to a state of drunken drowsiness when that same sun rises over that same hood. I eat the bad car snacks. I forget to shower at camp sites. I wonder why the floor cannot stay clean even though I’m snapping at everyone to please pick up your garbage!

Who’s driving, anyway?

Shortly after that first, fateful day at fifteen when my mother gave me full control, I attended the driving portion of Driver’s Ed at school. Perhaps because I was the tallest female, our instructor picked me for the first turn. I don’t learn well by going first; I’m an observer.

The rest of our small group piled into the small sedan, buckled for safety, and waited for me to start the engine. I gulped. I adjusted everything I could think to adjust: seatbelt, steering, seat, side mirrors, rearview mirror, headrest. We’d been walked through this in instructional videos during class, and I was determined to get all the steps right. Then, ignition -with foot on brake pedal, of course. My hands flew to 10 and 2 like boot camp soldiers. I looked forward through the windshield, and waited for whatever hell the instructor at my elbow would direct me through.

My turn didn’t last long then, either. Another boy in the class took over after a few blocks and did marvelously. He drove better than the instructor! It turned out that he’d been allowed to man tractors on his grandfather’s farm since thirteen years old. Cheater.

Who’s driving? Floats through my mind when I wake up and get ready for the children’s day. They need to dress for school, eat breakfast, sit up at the table, not punch their brothers, pick up their shoes, do their homework, eat right, not talk back, feel loved, and then understand that I am a person and I love their father and our relationship is the most important of all.

Yeah, we’ve been seeing a marriage counselor. She’s a good driver.

Who’s driving? My mind recalls the sappy Country Song “Jesus Take the Wheel.” That’s a subject for a few pages all its own, so I’ll summarize with: I may not be in a great place discontentedly backseat driving, but I trust that spot a lot more than the places He might take me.

I know others in a similar state. Their reactions have varied from meekly asking for a turn at steering, to pushing the special Eject button James Bond-style and parachuting irresponsibly to a new adventure.

I’d love to end this personal reflection with a determined statement; a wonderful aphorism on life to pass on. Unfortunately, all I’ve got are chocolate almonds, yesterday’s clothing, and criticisms.

Perhaps you know a good solution? Anything’s better than here.

Maybe.

One Year!

We’d like to interrupt your regularly-scheduled programming for this small announcement: Today is my one year anniversary of blogging!!!!!

For 365 days I met my goal of writing a post EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I consider this my true blogiversary, since this site was my first dive into the wonderful world of bloggerhood. At first, I thought I’d post on here and no one would see. Over time I’d work up to writing so frequently and so well that talent agents would contact me and I’d be the undiscovered superstar that childhood bullies and bad-grade English teachers would regret ever doubting.

Instead, I’ve connected with a much better thing: other people who also share a love for writing, a tendency toward mental illness, or simply a quirky perspective I understand. The potential for stardom may still be out there, but have to find it. I have to do a lot more work than show up at my computer an hour before midnight, blearily trying to think of a rhyme for Engrish.

If you’re still with me, I also need to announce another announcement. I will no longer write every day. Frankly, the stress has been high with things like, say, four active children and housekeeping and a side job and breathing in and out. Yes, I will regularly post; no, it shan’t be daily.

Thank you so much to The Academy and such, but most so to my family for surviving and supporting and to ALL OF YOU reading my words right now, before now, and in the future.