Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

Gather ’round, young and old. Old Granny Chel is gonna tell you about a mystical time, four whole years ago…. I was ‘specting my fifth child -a boy- and learned I needed to stay in bed. In those days, you see, everyone left the house to do the shopping and the working and the schooling. I remember taking pictures of my bedroom and writing on Facebook -you older ones remember Facebook, don’t you?- about my vacation plans to tour Laundry Mountain and Bedside Manner…. *sigh*

‘What’s a vacation?’ Well….

Photo by riciardus on Pexels.com

Can you imagine telling this to your children? Before COVID-19, this would have been a fictional, dystopian short story. After COVID-19, however, many of us feel how close to home this hits.

I’ve reflected on life before COVID many times: When I stood in line, six feet apart, in the Costco parking lot while reading the sign about what they were out of. When I dropped my children off at school and adjusted their masks. When I’ve seen drinking fountains, couches, restaurants, and bulk candy containers taped off with warning signs attached. When a sneeze makes me jump. When a cough draws scrutiny.

My reflection hasn’t been a longing for the past so much as an astonishment at how very different life has been. I’ve often thought, No one would have guessed these things would be happening now.

Such a thought reminds me of that common interview question: Where do you see yourself in five years? The best job candidates say, “I see myself here, at your company. I’m working with a team to improve quality and productivity.” The worst say, “Oh, I plan to get pregnant, have a baby, and stop working for this company within two years. In five? I think I’ll be working for your competitor after using up my maternity leave.”

COVID-19 has been the worst potential employee, ever.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I think we’re seeing the tail end of it, which is great. I’m crossing my fingers we won’t experience another pandemic of this magnitude for another hundred years. Assuming life moves at the pace it currently is, then, where do you see yourself in five years?

It’s okay; I’ll hire you no matter what…

—————-

Here’s the run-down for the last two weeks:
Wednesday, February 9: Told you about our regular side business selling handmade all-natural soy wax candles, plus the one we’re trying to launch, Valiant Candle Company.

Thursday, February 10: Announced the winner of the Terrible Poetry Contest for that week, Matt again!

Friday, February 11: Friday Photo. Don’t you just love alone time?
Also, announced that week’s Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme was a cento poem about being compassionate.

Saturday, February 12: Had a lot of fun writing a cento-style poem about …well, not really about anything. It was a mess.

Sunday, February 13: Shared a quote by someone, often misattributed so who-knows-what famous person first said it?

Monday, February 14: “I’m a Mormon, So” I likes my milder cuss words.

Tuesday, February 15: Wrote “This is the End,” a short story about The End.

Thursday, February 17: Announced the winner of the Terrible Poetry Contest, Dumbestblogger!

Friday, February 18: Friday Photo! Ice cream, anyone?

Saturday, February 19: “That’s a Moray!!”

Sunday, February 20: Shared a quote by Oscar Wilde.
Also announced this week’s (and next week’s) Terrible Poetry Contest. You have two weeks to ENTER!! The theme is a limerick about grain.

Monday, February 21: “I’m a Mormon, So” I’ve been baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost.

©2022 Chel Owens

Here’s to You, Mrs. Wilson

Chelsea hadn’t called in several months. As usual, her first thought was to check through the obituaries.

No, that Mrs. Wilson wasn’t old enough. That one was too old, and had lived in Newark. And that wasn’t an obituary -but was the Excellence in Education Award winners from twenty years ago.

She’d contributed a quote for that: “In all my years of school, including high school and college, I’ve never learned as much as I did in Mrs. Wilson’s class.”

Chelsea was a better writer now. She was also a mother of six boys. In Mrs. Wilson’s class, however, she’d been a bit of a trouble-maker. She’d written her own spelling lists, vowed to read the entire classroom library, built skyscrapers of the hand-me-down Lego sets, and nearly kicked Stupid Sally in the face after first chucking sand in it. Sally had grabbed Chelsea’s foot during a biased slide game; everyone ganging up to remove her from the top.

Not all recesses ran that way. No -Mrs. Wilson spent those special times with only her class, teaching jacks and double-dutch and kickball.

Ah, kickball. Chelsea remembered. Mrs. Wilson, blue-veined, bumpy legs in socks and long shorts, out there running and kicking with the best. They’d even held a teachers v. students game. The score had been close.

“Well, hello.” Mrs. Wilson sounded much the same as she had thirty years before. “I’m always surprised when a call comes through. I’m in Arizona.” Nearly blind and still traveling.

Chelsea smiled, remembering other calls; answered from England, Yellowstone, Las Vegas, California. She had a postcard from Antarctica and another from Nepal.

Of course, Arizona was as far as Mrs. Wilson went these days. The rest of her year Mrs. Wilson passed in her one-bedroom apartment with Alexa and the television for company. Chelsea knew, because they’d had conversations where Mrs. Wilson spelled Alexa’s name when she referred to it. No sense activating the eavesdropping electronic wonder during a discussion that didn’t include it.

“I’ve had my baby,” Chelsea said. “He’s another dark-haired, dark-eyed model.”

“Oh, wonderful. And how old is he? How do his brothers like him?”

Of all the things to talk about: seeing the Himalayas in person, flying across the Atlantic near-annually, or achieving Mrs. Wilson’s life goal of standing on the southernmost continent on Earth -she only ever asked after people. Amazingly, Mrs. Wilson also remembered everyone.

“How if your brother doing? Is he finished with medical school? How are the triplets?” Give Mrs. Wilson any name and she’d remember. Give her a Christmas and she had gifts lined up based on interests. “I found these darling carved bears one year, and Gunner loves bears so I decided to get them for him and his brothers.” Gunner, naturally, was one of Mrs. Wilson’s growing collection of great-grandchildren and great-great nephews and nieces.

As they spoke, Chelsea pictured Mrs. Wilson. Today, the backdrop was a ranchhouse in the middle of a Sedona nowhere. Well -that would be the view if Mrs. Wilson hadn’t lost most of her vision. Ten acres rested barely within range of a cell phone call.

“We’ll be leaving soon,” Mrs. Wilson said. “I’m packed and will be back home by next week.”

Back home, Mrs. Wilson sat amongst her life. It was an apartment Chelsea loved visiting and pictured herself retiring to, when she could retire like Mrs. Wilson. A small couch and recliner huddled amongst myriad books, a bison skull, petrified wood, Moqui marbles, Indonesian masks, a silk-paper calendar, unique dice, a lovespoon, and hand-carved Mancala boards. It was a simple place for a simple life, one that revolved around teaching, family, and travel.

“That sounds good,” Chelsea told her former teacher. “Travel safely.”

“Take care of those boys.”

“I will. Goodbye.”

Chelsea held the cell phone in her hand, a device that hadn’t existed in her elementary years. How many more conversations would she have with Mrs. Wilson? How many more trips? How many visits?

She looked at her newborn son. Really, she knew, it was the conversations they’d already had that mattered. The real question was, what would the next thirty years look like for Chelsea and her growing family? Would she make it to Antarctica?

Photo by ArtHouse Studio on Pexels.com

©2021 Chel Owens

A New Day

Back and forth. In and out. Sun to down. Winter to winter, for thirty years.

The children changed. The house aged. The horses and cows and chickens and that mean old goat -all ended up at slaughter; to be replaced by horses, cows, chickens -but no more goats. For thirty years.

She stood while the priest spoke about the dark shadow she’d known for so very long. This and that. Bless his soul. Rest in peace.

Veiled and black. Grey and old. No more back or forth, in or out, sun to down. Clouds clearing, she smelled the spring.

Photo by Ellie Burgin on Pexels.com

©2020 Chel Owens

Awakened in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt this week:

October 15, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about chores. It doesn’t have to be a western ranch chore; it can be any routine task. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by October 20, 2020. Use the comment section [on the site], 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.

Science Fiction?

And remember, shoppers, wearing masks helps everyone.

Kate hardly heard the announcement as she squatted on the fissured floor. It had played five minutes before; five minutes before that; five minutes before that; five years before that.

Don’t forget to stock up on hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies.

Her breath fogged her vision; cleared; fogged. She remembered when panic first hit; when people rushed to stores for cleaners, supplies, and even frozen pizza. Crazy to think, half a decade later, of running out of sanitizer. Everyone brewed his own, fumigating what remained of the landscape.

Are you immunocompromised?

“Then you’re dead,” Kate mumbled into her mask.

Try our grocery pickup: FoodCorp prides itself on offering grocery pickup, right outside the store!

“But not delivery,” Kate sighed. Too bad, really, about delivery. It’d been nice while it lasted. Groceries, radios, cars, the mail -all of it, brought right to where you lived by someone who didn’t take it for himself. Or, someone who didn’t get killed by raiders.

Associates: it’s the top of the hour.

Kate stiffened. More time had passed than she’d realized. Throwing caution to the winds, she lay on the grubby floor and scrabbled underneath the shelving.

Please ensure your areas are neat and tidy for our customers.

Her glasses scraped and scratched. Straining, she felt an edge of curved, sealed metal. It spun at her fingertips but moved closer. She grunted; pushed; spun; strained; shoved. A dust-grimed can of chili rolled in front of her floor-laid face.

Thank you for shopping at FoodCorp!

“Thank you,” she muttered, coughing into the fabric across her mouth. She clutched the can to herself, raised herself, glanced around herself. Shoppers’ shadows walked across her memory as she retraced her steps down the empty, broken aisle. Had it really only been a few years since sunlight? Shining linoleum? Aproned workers sweeping? Smiling customers that moved their shopping carts aside to let yours through?

Please, come again.

Kate shoved a molding display shelf against the wall and climbed. After peeking beneath it, she lifted the ragged Welcome to FoodCorp! banner and crawled though a hole in the brickwork.

Photo by Clément Falize on Unsplash

©2020 Chel Owens

“And what do I hope for? Health and happiness, mostly.

“I hope scientists find a cure for a virus that feeds upon human organs, drowning the lungs and clotting the bloodstream. I hope that as scary as circumstances might get, we all learn new ways to be. I hope for learning from the stillness. I hope for gifts in the silence. I hope to hug again, to travel, and be unmasked from every mask I’ve ever worn. I hope to pet my neighbor’s new puppy, to gather friends around the campfire we’re building in the potager, to hunt for agates and run from black flies again. I hope to have guests and readings and workshops in my new home. I hope no one has to fear losing their home. I hope people find their passion in their work and community. I hope simply to live as fully as I can.”

Charli Mills, Founder of Carrot Ranch

“It is never too late to be a child again or perhaps for the very first time. Just let go and be who you were meant to be or who you always wanted to be.

“Never give up until they are shoveling dirt over you. When it is your time, you will leave this world, but nothing says it will be forever. We don’t know what lies on the other side, and all the souls have to go someplace, so why not think about it that way and forget the forever aspect of it all. The world is constantly evolving, and so I know that there is no true end to things; it only happens in our minds. Take this time to make things right in your life. Rebuild fences and be a true friend to everyone you know and love.”

-Anne Copeland, “This is the Way the Earth Rolls.”

Anarchists and Aliens

Despite overwhelming evidence of humanity’s intelligence and observational abilities, Dr. Straussnüd’s research covering the period shortly before the collapse of civilisation appeared to lead to one conclusion: that people failed to utilise said abilities in order to avert subjugation and demise.

For, for what other reason did the records he had unearthed bear markings of carefree ignorance on the part of Earth’s inhabitants?

When a literal invasion of alien species flashed its conscience-altering devices, they had not followed admonitions. Why? Once informed, audio records proved their leaders to have yelled, “Shield your faces!”

Straussnüd frowned. He required further study.

two alien inside car wallpaper
Photo by Miriam Espacio on Pexels.com

I’m not sure where this came from, but it’s in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt:

April 9, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that declares, shield your face. It can be a knight of old, a doctor, or a senior citizen. What is the circumstance? Who makes the declaration? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 14, 2020. Use the comment section …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.

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

4/4/2020 of COVID-19 Home Life

Today’s my son’s birthday. We were planning a birthday party for him, before. “You know this year you get to have a big party, right?” I’d said to him. “Make sure you’re thinking about what you want to do and the friends you’ll want to invite.”

Fortunately, my baby-surgery recovery and our other birthdays made it so we didn’t get past that point in conversations. I didn’t have anyone or anything reserved. We hadn’t invited people. All that happened is that, when Utah’s governor first announced the schools were closing, my son asked, “What about my birthday?”

“Well, we’ll plan to have it after school’s back in session. If things go longer, we’ll have it in September.”

Looking at maps of the spread of Coronavirus, I’m thinking we’ll push his party till next year.

World map showing countries with COVID-19 cases
Global case numbers are reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in their coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation reportexternal icon. ©2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Another event’s been affected by all this, for us. Kev (my husband) and I were planning on our first-ever trip to Europe. We had to commit to going last year, and have been paying toward it. I’ve also been stressing about it; thinking and praying about whom to leave which boy with for three weeks.

Although the organizers have not officially told us this is the case, we think it will be cancelled. More than the money is the idea that I was *this close* to something that’s been on my bucket list since I was a girl. Not much is still on that list, mostly because humans haven’t developed self-aviation.

Birthday parties, vacation plans, weddings, funerals, baby blessings, Disneyland, the dentist… all cancelled.

We’re not the only ones affected. A friend complained about missing their family cruise. Another listed all the concerts she couldn’t attend. What whiners, right? There are people dying after near-suffocation from a disease they contracted at Wal-mart.

But, we are not trying to be shallow. We are dealing with massive change.

My favorite example of this, pre-COVID-19, is in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. <Spoiler Alert> Planet Earth is bulldozed to make way for a hyperspace expressway. The protagonist, Arthur Dent, escapes with Ford Prefect (an alien in disguise) just before the bureaucratic aliens known as Vogons blast us to nothing. Arthur is an Everyman. When Ford tells him what’s happened, he can’t grasp that Earth and everyone on it is gone.

“There was no way his imagination could feel the impact of the whole Earth having gone, it was too big. He prodded his feelings by thinking that his parent and his sister had gone. No reaction. He thought of all the people he had been close to. No reaction. Then he thought of a complete stranger he had been standing behind in the queue at the supermarket two days before and felt a sudden stab: the supermarket was gone, everyone in it was gone! Nelson’s Column had gone! and there would be no outcry, because there was no one left to make an outcry! From now on Nelson’s Column only existed in his mind. England only existed in his mind. A wave of claustrophobia closed in on him.

“He tried again: America, he thought, has gone. He couldn’t grasp it, He decided to start smaller again. New York has gone. No reaction. He’d never seriously believed it existed anyway. The dollar, he thought, has sunk for ever. Slight tremor there. Every ‘Bogart’ movie has been wiped, he said to himself, and that gave him a nasty knock. McDonald’s, he thought. There is no longer any such thing as a McDonald’s hamburger.

“He passed out.”

I remembered this quote as I drove around on my once-a-week errands, feeling a slight jolt at empty restaurants and neon signs about what part of which business was open. I remembered the quote while we watched LDS General Conference this morning; while the camera panned over an empty exterior shot of the building where 21,000 people would have been meeting.

Mormon NewsroomGeneral Conference, April 2019. Thanks to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for the picture.

Surreal.

The good news is that I think I’m through all the Stages of Grief now. I skipped from Shock to Depression, swung back to Emotionless, and am now resigned to Acceptance. My family and I are still here, are fine, and are just staying home. I can stay here in my own, four walls. I don’t need to worry about what if because those who are in charge have removed the stresses I had, outside of my four walls. If IT can stay outside those walls as well, then we’re set for months.

And, we’re making lemonade out of lemons. My son and his brother set up a Minecraft server and invited his classmates. We’ll wait and see what happens with Europe. The LDS church leaders are broadcasting from a small room, with their chosen speakers sitting six feet apart.

The latest from LDS General Conference: Church membership tops 16.5M; afternoon session begins with a virtual vote
(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) General Conference begins at a small auditorium in the Church Office Building with top leaders socially distanced amid the coronavirus pandemic. ©2020 The Salt Lake Tribune

I’ll bake a birthday cake and make enchiladas from the ingredients I picked up from my store order yesterday. I’ll wrap the presents our postman delivered. I’ll remember to look at this from my son’s perspective, because all he wants is a happy birthday.

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

3/31/2020 of COVID-19 Home Life

My parents came by yesterday. I don’t talk about them much because they have the right to decide whether they want their information online.

Still, over they came. They walked forward and deposited my and my son’s birthday presents on our porch. They stepped back. I unwrapped them: a framed pencil illustration my mother drew of our son, and a beautiful Schwibbögen. My children crowded around me in the doorway and excitedly waved and yelled about schoolwork and the new computer game we’ve been playing as a family, Stardew Valley.

My parents put up a good face. I held my new baby in the doorway as they drove away, waving his little hand for them. I doubt they saw; they probably barely saw well enough to drive if they were crying as much as I was.

I think IT -as Mike calls the Coronavirus crisis- has finally hit most of us. One of my sons came in last night around 9. He sat on our bed. “I’m scared,” he said.

“Oh? Did you have a bad dream? What are you scared about?”

“I don’t know. Just scared.”

Trying to uncover the fear did nothing, so I quickly switched tactics to enumerating everything safe about his situation. We have family, a safe area, a warm house, brothers to take care of him. He calmed enough to sleep in his own bed.

As I was drifting off to sleep later*, I heard and felt the slight change in air pressure that meant our bedroom door had opened. One of my older sons stood in the doorway.

“Son? What’s wrong?”

Bearing his about-to-cry face, he came to my bedside. “I’m scared.”

I hugged him and held him. “It’s okay, Son. It’s okay.”

“Thank you, Mom.”

We walked back to his bed together. I gave him a Melatonin and tucked him in.

…Which might explain why several of us slept in this morning. I awoke to feed Baby at 8ish; finished and got ‘ready’ to pick up a prescription by 10 a.m. Everyone but we parents and my early-riser was still asleep. Costco’s automated phone message played its usual bit, then had a slightly louder recording tell how they have new hours for the warehouse, including a special time for seniors to shop. People picking up prescriptions do not have to wait in line at the door -just tell the guards associates at the exit doors that you’re picking up a prescription and they’ll let you in.

I haven’t written about Costco yet. Usually, it’s my home away from home. I like to go there when we travel, and Utah boasts the world’s largest Costco. Friends have even teased that I ought to travel to all of them and chronicle my adventures.

When I went there to stockpile toilet paper and water three weeks ago (okay -kidding), people were a tad tense. A few, like me, knew what was coming and were purchasing a few extras. A week later, the store had imposed limits on supplies. A few days after that, signs dotted the columns and tape lines dotted the cash registers and waiting areas so that we might stay 6 feet away from each other. Lines formed to get in, separated by cones and pallets; lines formed to check out, enforced by Costco employees.

Today, plexiglass barriers are screwed to the front of all the cash registers. Some workers wear face masks. The receipt-checkers at the exits have clipboards and gloves. No one touches your membership card. Everyone furiously wipes down counters and computer equipment. They spray shopping carts (trolleys) with a pink solution out in the parking lot.

I saw a pregnant woman of Indian features and dress wearing gloves and a dentist-style face mask. They’re probably not doing much for her, but I’d be doing the same in her shoes.

Next on my errands was the post office. They had tape on the floor as well, plus a sign outside about keeping 10 or fewer people in the waiting area. The woman at the desk wore a face mask and she also sat behind newly-installed plexiglass.

Perhaps we ought to start living in personal plexiglass houses.

The oddest part of my experiences is something Pete pointed out in his comments on my last update: people are avoiding any interaction. Told to be wary and stay six feet away, we are also avoiding nonverbal cues that indicate safety. We are not smiling, laughing, reassuring, or talking. I guess we need to learn to be friends …from a distance.

Which is why I find comfort in the snippets of sunshine. A woman asked another woman at Costco where she’d gotten her package of Charmin toilet paper** from; I heard them laughing at whatever the response was, and I smiled at their smiles. The secretary for my sons’ school asked how we were all doing when I called about a registration issue. My friend and I talked on the phone.

I felt like giving up that day we had the earthquake. I’ve mostly stopped obsessively checking the United States Geological Society’s latest earthquakes page since, and was handling each day too busy to dwell on the larger implications of what we were doing. Today, however, I’ve returned to some of that anxiety. The novelty’s worn off, I suppose. We’ve purchased all the extra food we can eat. We’ve got a rough schedule for schoolwork at home. We’ve even finally started a nap routine for the baby. Now, though, comes the most difficult part: facing the long dark of Moria.

But wishing IT away hasn’t worked for most of us. Assuming IT wouldn’t come didn’t work very well, either. My son’s speech and behavior aide last year told me they were working on his Sphere of Influence; what he could control. Me, I can’t control IT. I can’t control the world’s response. What I can control is me. I can still control much of what my family does and is exposed to as well.

So, you may find me writing from within a circle of salt. Still, at least I’m still alive. And writing.

©2020 Chelsea Owens, including photos of the Schwibbögen and Costco
GIFS © GIPHY

*Okay, I was really playing Candy Crush. They’re offering infinite lives all week, which is brilliant for keeping people in.
**Charmin Ultra Soft toilet tissue is worth more than gold right now…