A Thomas Crapper Original

I’m not sure if the power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely, as Louisa May Alcott once opined, but I know some of the simplest things make me happy. Like the hand painted picture of three little pink piggys trying to nose their way out the barn door that I have hanging in my kitchen. Matching towels and pretty commodes. It may just be my way of making up for the chamber pots and outdoor privies suffered in my youth in the unplumbed south. This was originally posted exactly 10 years ago. I still like it. Hope you do too.

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Over the years while traveling, I taught my daughters the cardinal traveler’s rule, “you go” when you have the chance.” I was reminded of that rule often during our recent road trip. In fact, that rule led me to a discovery of sorts that now makes me almost want to re-do my bathroom at home.

We were in Seattle and had decided to walk from our hotel to the waterfront and downtown, taking public transportation as and when needed. They have a great public transport system and even offer free bus rides to everyone within a designated area of old downtown, and a transfer pass can get you in and out within a certain period for $1.50 or $1.75, depending on whether it’s “peak rush hour” or not. Our onfoot foray was to turn into a daylong adventure, and I was often reminded of my traveler’s rule.

Since we’d read drastically conflicting reviews on the underground tour of Seattle, we were resting our tootsies sitting on a bench in Pioneer Square and trying to decide if the underground tour of Seattle was worth the ticket price of $12 for seniors. Anyone who knows me also knows my seriously weird, some might say “warped,” sense of history. The more ridiculous or seedier it is the better I like it, and my head is full of useless facts about various things. I was very curious to learn more about the seedier side of the old underground city destroyed by the fire in 1889 that gave Pioneer Square the reputation that eventually gave rise to the expression “skid row.”

We more or less had decided to give it a go and learned that there would be no sitting down for this tour. Turns out we’d be on our feet for a full hour and a half or more–depending on the verbosity of our actor guide–so we decided we weren’t quite up to it after walking all those blocks already. Since we were already inside and nobody seemed to be kicking us out, we opted to have a look around first in the attached Rogue’s Museum and antique shop instead.

Soon I noticed the sign that pointed to “Women’s” and automatically turned to go in since all I’d seen so far were signs in every storefront saying “wash rooms are for customers only.”

The “facilities” were so pretty that I just had to take a picture to remember. Even the wash basin and the matching backsplash were pretty.

Back outside in the museum, one of the first exhibits I saw was either “the” or “an” original toilet designed by Thomas Crapper. While propriety or a certain sense of decorum prevented me from photographing the interior of the toilet above, this one was fair game.

Aren’t they pretty? I found you can order one for your own bathroom from the U.K. at a ballpoint figure of $1,000 American dollars. Guess I’ll be keeping our old crapper toilet instead. By the way, in doing all the research about Thomas Crapper, I found out that he really wasn’t the “inventor” of the modern flush toilet after all. I just may flush out this story more fully in a future post, but for now I hope you like the pretty toilets.

making wise choices . . .

Every once in awhile, Hubby does or says something that confirms the validity of the life altering decision I made all those years ago when I decided to cast my lot with him “from this day forward, ’til death do we part.” I saw an email he’d written, and was so proud I told him I was going to steal it and post it as “my” blog. He gave full permission:

What the hell is wrong with India? I just finished reading a book called Pink Sari Revolution: A tale of women and power in India and I was beginning to think that some changes may be possible. And then I read this article in today’s news on the internet. I hate to think that this case makes India as bad as [terrorist organization] regime or worse. It seems that the police or the politicians don’t care.  Why aren’t the general public outraged by this?

He was referring of course to two prominent and recent headlines from around the world:  Indian Woman Gang-Raped By 13 Men On Orders Of Village Court In West Bengal: Police  and Danish Tourist Gang-Raped, Robbed And Beaten Near Connaught Place, Indian Police Say . . . . It was enough that he was concerned enough and cared enough to defend these women, but when challenged that it wasn’t  India but the fact that women were afraid to report these incidents (until recently of course), thereby implying that the fault lies with the victims (now where have I heard that before?!), and that in reality–and especially when or if you considered the population numbers, percentage wise India was doing much better than the U.S. in such matters–his reply was:

I am sorry, I don’t agree with your statement “there is nothing wrong with India”. Even if there is one incident of gang rape of a woman or a young girl, it is one too many. When you read that the local panchayat ordered the gang rape because she was seen with someone from another tribe, this borders on barbarian practices. The Taliban routinely kill the women in these cases. I am surprised that the elders did not order stoning to go with it.

Population sizes, the reporting frequencies, and we are no worse  than other places etc are totally irrelevant.  In fact, I believe that the number of cases reported to police are miniscule as the police usually blame the victims. For a country that brags about being an ancient civilization and more civilized than the Islamic fundamentalists, assault and gang rapes on women should not be acceptable at any level. Add to this the so called “honor killing of women”, it gets worse.

When women are treated as less than equals and this is socially and culturally accepted, there is something wrong with the country.  See the following headline from the Hindu:
Hundreds of Indian election candidates accused of sexual violence – Figures released by the Association for Democratic Reforms show that hundreds of election candidates had allegations against them – as had scores of those in power.

When politicians get elected in spite of their sexual crimes against women, it says that there will be no laws created to address the problems.

Yes we know that rape happens in all places, but no where else [do] the village elders order it.

By the way, a “panchayat” is an elective village council in India, usually made up of five “wise and respected” elders chosen and accepted by the community who traditionally settle disputes between individuals and villages. The response from one of our daughters to her dad said simply “that was awesome. you’re the best.” The other followed with, “Ditto!” So as not to be outdone, or left out of the conversation, I responded to both daughters with this simple truth: “You may thank me for choosing your papa wisely! Mom” Young single women should take heed and remember the man they’re thinking of choosing to marry will (likely) be the father of their future children.

what does a woman want?

What a great question. What would women answer?  They’d be as varied as the woman you talk to at any given moment.

Since 2007 I’ve been nursing my little Wintersong along, trying to figure out what–if anything–I want to accomplish with it. It’s no secret that I’ve been posting less and less these days. Lord knows I’ve probably broken every rule in the blogasphere, beginning with “post often” and “write well.”

Earlier today as I was doing my fat burning workout at the gym, I was hooked into my trusty old I-pod and heard a “little story” under just this title on a Modern Stories podcast and it led to a completely different post than the one that I’d planned. For several days I’ve been half planning to write a completely different piece–in effect “hanging up the keyboard.” What I was having trouble with was deciding whether for good or just for the summer. After I’d thought on it for awhile I decided that I may still not know what this woman wants other than balance in my life, but I sure know what I don’t want. That is to feel trapped in a routine I can’t keep up with. To have figured out what I DON’T want is half the battle I figure.

We’ll be leaving soon for a little rest and recreation in Florida, my old home state. I’m looking forward to showing my “southern estate–all 25 acres of it–to my grandchildren. We’ll also be taking them through Disney world, and I can’t honestly say I’m looking forward to the lines, but it’ll be a great experience for them to remember. We’re lucky to have the opportunity while we can still get around well. Younger daughter (#2) and her significant other will be joining us from NYC to spend a day with the kids at Universal Studios in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (Their parents will be having a high old time at a Conference while it’ll take all four of the other of us–grownups–to keep the kids from killing eac safe. It’ll be fun even though I’m sure it will not be a tear- nor line-free day. In the evenings we’ll all be together and I look forward to some of my old haunts–or as many as we can fit in–and lots of seafood and southern cooking–lots of sweetened iced tea and grits cooked like only a southerner knows how to do it–in the evenings.

After we come back, we may do a dash-over to see a new vacation property in Oregon that daughter #1 and her SO recently purchased–just to check it out. Then as fall approaches we’ll be heading off to Italy. The last three days we’ll be concentrating on a vespa tour of Rome featuring a hands-on cooking class experience at a private home. We’re looking forward to eating what we cook.

The summer is barely beginning and I’m already seeing it disappear before me. So little time. All those words just to say what my readers already know. I’ve decided I’m not quite ready to hang up the old keyboard after all, but for the rest of the summer posting will be sporadic as and when I decide there’s something I want to remember. This is a good place to file those memories. I hope I’ll still have a few readers left when I have more time. I hope by then I’ll have a good answer to the question posed. In the meantime, I invite you to share your wants, either here or on your own blogs if you crazy enough to still be doing it.

when I’m an old woman I shall wear purple

So much has been going on I hardly know where to start. Last Friday the hubby disappeared–he does that a lot since it must be a great challenge to live with an older woman (he’s exactly 10 months younger, you see).    I was in the office because there had been a telephone call a few moments before that I expected Hubby would answer, as I was sure he knew I was busy catching up on my ironing in the bedroom. But he didn’t. After four rings, the answering service picks up. I wondered why he hadn’t answered–so I went looking for him, deciding first to check to see if the missed call had been important or if there was a message. The doorbell rang. I waited a moment for Hubby to appear because I was still in my pajamas even though it was nearing 11:00. Then it rang again, this time more urgently.

What to do? First I called out to Hubby. No answer. Where was that man this time? I can see the front stoop from my office window, so I glanced out and saw the back of a young man’s head, but I could tell from the voices there was at least one other person with him. My first thought was missionaries. Or Jehovah’s witness.  Now I have nothing against either group, but I was so behind on seasonal switching out chores I truly didn’t have time to chat. The doorbell chimed again, then the banging began. I started to the bedroom to find a robe, but when I saw the heavy winter fuzzy hanging there, I thought it would look sillier than the white tee-shirt with blue fish (yes, the very one I was forced to wear in Edinburgh in September when the heat wave hit) and the blue plaid pajama bottoms I had on.

I was so rattled, maybe startled is a better word, as I opened the door and saw the black haired young man was Ben, my NY daughter’s Significant Other, and two women. Time seemed to stop! What in heaven’s name was Ben doing here? It was when shouts of “Happy Birthday” or “Surprise” or something like that it hit me! The next day I would be having a significant birthday–the big seven and O! Hubby has always said that’s an important birthday in India, but he usually had such trouble keeping secrets and he gets so excited that I always know something’s afoot. I’d already figured out that he and the daughter who lives down the street were possibly planning something bigger than the usual dinner and cake she usually prepared. I even told him please don’t throw a surprise party or making a big deal out of it. Particularly this one! His answer was Don’t worry. You know we aren’t party people! Suddenly Hubby appears out of nowhere, and chores and everything else were forgotten. For this birthday and Mother’s Day, the whole family would be here; they’d all been planning it for months! It was the first time I ever remember being totally taken by surprise in almost my whole life.

Of course everyone came bearing gifts–themselves for the festivities (dinner out at our favorite Indian restaurant that evening and dinner with favorite cake at daughter’s house onn Saturday), books, a new linen blouse, and lime green sandals with such pizazz I’ve hardly taken them off my feet since. I am one hot mama–or grandmama–as the case may be! I’m planning to post a picture of my feet in the new shoes just as soon as I can get to the store and buy some nail polish and paint my toenails! Crimson or Cerise. Or how about Hot pink?

As for birthdays, I think 70 is a good time to start getting funky. You probably remember the book and cards from the 70s, so you know the drill. When I’m an old woman I shall wear purple! I’ve even begun to plan a new color scheme for the big room of our house that we plan to have repainted next year. One purple accent wall–with a natural gray or light charcoal walls all around with white wooden trim! (Let’s see if I still have the gut nerve next year when the time comes!) I got the idea from the new Community Center (gym, library, cafe) that opened in our township just a few weeks ago. Just in case it’s clear what that artwork is made of, here’s a close-up:

As for birthdays, especially the really really big ones, I think 70 is a good time to start counting backwards. Next year I’m going to be 69. Again. And I’m really looking forward to 21!

granddaughter’s first book

THE POOP MISTAKE – a book in progress

by Vimmy (age 6 years old)

[final version to be] illustrated completely by Mom

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ONE DAY A FAMLIY GOT A DOG.

HIS NAME WAS KLAY.

HE WAS PLAYFUL–EXITED AND HAPPY.

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THEN THEY ATE DINNER

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THEN THEY TOOK A WALK. KLAY DID NOT NO HOW TO WALK ON A LESH,

SO HE PULLED AND PULLED AND HE PULLED.

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THE NEXT DAY THEY TOOK KLAY ON A WALK

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AND WHEN THEY GOT TO THIER GRANDMA AND GRAMPA’S HOUS . . .

AFTER 20 MINITS HE POOPED ON THE RUG IN THER HOUS.

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AND EVERYONE WENT

NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!

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AND MOM SHUT HIM OUTSIDE WITH ME AND GRANDMA

[WHILE] MOM AND GRAMPA CLENED UP.

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AND WHEN WE WERE COMING HOME

HE WAS BARKING AT APACHEY.

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WE LOVE KLAY

BUT HE HAS A LOT TO LERN.

THE END

Notes from the editor:  Vimmy’s book was produced just as originally written. I didn’t have the opportunity to ask Klay (or Clay) how he preferred to spell his name, but Vimmy chose a K so I did it her way. She always like that. Exited means Klay was acting with “high energy.” Lesh is that thing attached to a dog’s collar, and Apachey (probably Apache) is an Airedale Terrior who lives in the neighborhood. I hope you enjoyed this “rough” draft  of Vimmy’s very first picture book as much as I’ve enjoyed posting it.

all the world’s a stage . . .

I’ve said over and over again to whoever paid attention that the key to appreciating life lies in your own attitude. After hearing a line affirming that fact in the movie reviewed in my previous post, I can’t think of anything offhand that doesn’t depend on what we choose to bring to the experience. I thought about it as I was driving home yesterday from a meeting of my new writing club. One of the members, Polly, is a petite, silver-haired senior in her eighties. She’s one of those charismatic people I think of as born story tellers. Though she doesn’t call undue attention to herself in a crowd, as you get to know her you realize she’s not sleep walking through life, she’s always living an adventure. I always say to her after a long absence, what new adventures do you have to share with me, Polly, and she always has at least one. It may be how she decided to get out the step ladder and fix that malfunctioning security alarm system herself. After struggling with screwdrivers and socket wrenches and the sort, she soon felt frustrated enough to call the people who designed the system and ask them to walk her through it–what color wire goes here, etc.–so she could fix it herself rather than calling on her busy adult son. Then there were the trips she’s taken with her grandchildren–two so far, involving three adult grandchildren–and the beautiful stories of their serendipitous adventures together. I’ve no doubt traveling as adults with their grandmother–with an age-span of 60+ years–has surely given them a much larger picture of graceful aging than society does in general. In fact, I began to realize early on that Polly sees the world much differently than I. Being a former dancer and teacher with a flair for drama, Polly’s world comes choreographed where mine comes with stories.

I love the occasional glimpse into the world as others see it, and I get that opportunity–seeing Polly’s choreographed world–regularly at our monthly writer’s meeting.  Yesterday, when she shared two more adventures, I suggested she should be sharing with a wider audience than the four of us at the meeting, but she demurred suggesting a certain aversion to computers in general. So I begged, and she graciously agreed to be my guest blogger for today’s Wintersong. I hope my readers will be inspired through it to take a second look at ordinary people on an ordinary day. After all, wasn’t it Shakespeare who said All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. 

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When discussing a good way to get an idea for a story, one of our writing group members suggested that we go to a restaurant and sit close to others in order to listen to bits of conversation. When shopping at Costco the other day, I decided to have lunch. I forgot about sitting close to others and, as is my habit, sat as far away as possible from others. I could not hear any conversations–just the general cacophony of the crowd. In watching those around me, I began to be intrigued by an elderly couple who came into view.

When the gentleman started to sit down, his wife–with a sweeping gesture of her arm and index finger–pointed to another place, he raised himself and went to the spot she had designated. Right away we know she is “Mrs. Take Charge.” He then took something from his pocket–a Kleenex, a rag or a handkerchief, not sure which–and proceeded to clean his eating area with a rotating motion; first it was clockwise and then counterclockwise. She sat down across from him, but not for long. She popped up in jumping-jack fashion, turned away from him toward what I saw were the free napkins, and darted across the room. She returned with a wad of napkins. Standing in front of her plate, she began pressing the top of her meal with a handful. She pressed and released, pressed and released; it was similar to a plié and releve at a ballet barre. I think she was squeezing the grease from her meal while her husband continued to clean his area of the table. I watched their gestures–she, going down and up; he still going in a circular motion–as if I were watching a dance recital. That was just one table.

When glancing to the right there was another table, this one with a large family. Their gaggle of small children were like a pail of worms on fast forward. Under the bench and around the table, back and forth they’d go. Every once in awhile one would stop and cling to a parent. There was a constant and rapid circulation of little people. Here I am in this scene, watching Mrs. Take Charge and her obedient spouse, and the squirming children. Out of the blue comes a woman with big thighs and breasts laboriously pushing her heavy cart. She flopped down into a seat, exhausted from the effort of managing her cart and huge self. All I could think of was that out of this scene there was an idea  for a new dance! To think, one eight-inch all-beef hot dog on a roll topped with sauerkraut with a 16 ounce drink–my lunch–and all it had cost me was $1.50! The “extra” was watching what strikes me now as the makings of a dance program. And the show was all free!

a movie for mature audiences

I’ve written a good bit on my own travels to India, and many readers expressed quite a bit of interest over the years. No matter what words you use, however, I’ve always regretted that it’s impossible to convey what India is without being able to share the sounds, the colors, the chaos–the wonder–that India is. Hubby and I recently attended a pre-viewing of a wonderful movie that can change that a little, and I want to share it with my readers here. We’re members of a preview audience of movie lovers who are invited to pre-view current movies for free a few days or weeks before their opening dates. It costs us nothing but a few hours of our time plus whatever gas the car uses to get to the theater. All we have to do is give electronic feedback afterwards. It’s a pretty good deal, and out of the nearly dozen movies we’ve pre-viewed I’ve only seen one bomb, at least for my mature age group, and that was American Reunion. There is more to life, after all, than horny sex and bathroom pranks.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opened in England the end of February. On May 4 it will open in movie theaters around the United States. An assorted group of English pensioners facing uncertain economic circumstances in their retirement (portrayed by an admirable lineup of mature actors: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup), are  enticed by advertisements for THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, a seemingly luxurious sanctuary for “the elderly and beautiful” in Jaipur, India. Their retirement takes an unconventional turn when, upon arrival, they discover that the hotel falls somewhat short of the romantic idyll promised in the brochure. Most are gradually won over by the ever-optimistic young manager Sonny (Dev Patel from SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), who has troubles of his own. They tentatively embark on this new adventure, and most find that life can begin again when you let go of the past. The cinematography beautifully conveys the culture shock any westerner will probably feel in any (so-called) third-world country they encounter for the first time. You’ll also vicariously experience the chaotic sights and sound and color–just about everything but the smells (good or bad), and even those are easier to imagine (!) afterwards then anything I’ve ever been able to share through my writing.

So if you or your friends have ever entertained the idea of visiting India yourself someday, or even if you know you’ll never be able to afford that kind of adventure in real life or even desire it, I urge you to go in reel life by seeing this movie. If you watched the trailer above, you  may have picked up on a couple of lines that sum up pretty well my feelings about India. The first is from Sonny, the manager, as he’s fond of saying throughout,  “Everything will be all right at the end,” implying that if things aren’t all right yet, then it isn’t the end yet. The other memorable line is by Judy Dench. “India is about what you bring to it.” Those two lines express very well my feelings about India. It grows on you, just like the characters is this movie. And I believe that’s what you’ll take away if you see this movie.