the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Its nickname is “The Metaphor”

So, I moved. I moved into a rental house, and unpacked boxes still line the the entire wall of the storage room, some of them spilling out into the hallway. In between business trips to New York and California and Ohio I checked math homework and made sure Leta practiced her scales. I sang Marlo her two favorite songs before turning off her light at bedtime. I finally got around to those six loads of laundry. I met with lawyers and accountants and more lawyers. I had emergency meetings with guidance counselors.

Lately I find myself thinking about the pain in my legs at mile 17 when I was running that marathon, where I had to go in my mind to ignore all the signals my body was sending me. I remember putting my head down, forcing my legs to make strides. I blocked out everything, every noise, every color, every speck of light. It would be over soon, I told myself. The whole thing would eventually be a memory. One more stride.

I told my psychiatrist about this when I saw him on Monday. I told him that my ability to cope with things right now feels a lot like my ability to cope with things at mile 17. Except I don’t have the luxury of being able to block out everything. Kids still need showers and baths and long, meaningful talks. There’s everything else that normal people have to deal with. Normal stuff. That mountain of stuff everyone has to deal with. But I’m desperate for a finish line. I keep looking for a specific 26.2-mile marker to tell me that I can finally stop running. In the meantime, one more stride.

So, I moved into a rental. It’s a solid home. And because it fulfills all of our needs I don’t care about the green faux finish in the living room. I don’t care about the faded, floral wallpaper along the staircase. I don’t care about the mustard-colored paint in all the bedrooms. None of that matters because here my girls and I have a place to share meals and blow bubbles.

I did, however, get rid of the black toilet in the main bathroom.



Can you even believe that thing? How are you supposed to tell if your four-year-old has gone poop in that bowl? YOU CAN’T. IT’S NOT POSSIBLE. It’s like staring into the abyss, for crying out loud. Whenever any of us used this thing we’d go to sit down and pray that we’d hit the seat and not the floor because we couldn’t see a damn thing. More than once I sat down on the closed lid because it looks exactly the same when it is open.

If anyone wants this thing it’s sitting at mile 17. I’m hanging out here for a while.

  • allconsumingfood

    2013/06/20 at 3:26 pm

    Some days “one foot in front of the other” HAS to be enough. You will get there. This too shall pass. Insert other quasi misery-loves-company motivational saying here. My live-by motto is the Japanese saying “fall down seven times, rise up eight”. It’s worked so far. xxxxx

  • Short and Feisty

    2013/06/20 at 3:31 pm

    Nothing like a good ‘ole used toilet to liven up my living room decor.

    I’ll just have to swing by and pick it up after I spend 30 minutes at the Mile 16 Aid Stand because my thighs chafed so badly, I thought my shorts contained a cheese grater.

  • Sabine

    2013/06/20 at 3:33 pm

    Earlier today I was dealing with a more severe version of my normal chronic pain and I kept finding myself thinking, “I can’t do this,” and I’d follow that thought by saying, “but I have to do this.” And I totally did. I had to do it, so I did. I know it’s not the most inspirational (or detail rich) story, but sometimes “but I have to,” is enough.

    Now I want to find a black toilet to poop in.

  • april

    2013/06/20 at 3:50 pm

    As long as your hanging out, might as well head over to pinterest and find something useful for that toilet. I’m sure there’s at least one board of toilet planters out there.

  • tmb

    2013/06/20 at 3:57 pm

    that toilet is spectacular. And if you find that finish line would you leave a trail of breadcrumbs? I’m right behind you…

  • susanfishy

    2013/06/20 at 4:29 pm

    Let’s eat Grandma vs Let’s eat, Grandma. Punctuation saves lives. 😉

  • JS

    2013/06/20 at 4:35 pm

    I have been there. It gets better. It does, I swear. Hang in. You can do it.

  • jill

    2013/06/20 at 6:38 pm

    Fun fact: long, long ago, Larry Ellison had a black toilet in his office bathroom. It was a very Death Star, manly bathroom. On the very rare occasions when I snuck in to use it, I thought, “My butt is touching the same seat as Larry Ellison’s butt. Ew.”

  • KatR

    2013/06/20 at 6:49 pm

    Plus, when you want to make sure your four year old uses the potty, can you really say “here, sit on this portal to the underworld?” No, you cannot.

  • Linds

    2013/06/20 at 9:24 pm

    Ahhh, how I feel and needed this post today. Single mom in the middle of buying a house, travel 50% of the time for my job and found out pink eye was going around at daughter’s school. I am fried. I take it with a grain of salt because you know, first world problems, but still. Its exhausting. Thanks for the commiserative post.

  • Cotton Gusset

    2013/06/21 at 6:10 am

    Sweetie, you don’t need to see if a four year old has pooped. Kids had been pooping for thousands of years. Nature’s got this one.

  • Lauren3

    2013/06/21 at 7:26 am

    That finish line metaphor is PERFECT. You described a feeling that I know all too well, and I’m sure most others do too. You’re doin it, H!

  • whitingx5

    2013/06/21 at 7:48 am

    You are simply the best. Obviously you are having a hard time, and still you can make me almost choke on my coffee as a laugh tries to blast out of my mouth reading about your toilet. Hang out at mile 17 all you want, it is hard work doing what you are doing (been there, done that…) but the other side? When you get here, it is SO worth it!

  • Megan Gordon

    2013/06/21 at 8:37 am

    Remember to breathe…

  • crash1212

    2013/06/21 at 10:51 am

    I lived in a rental some years ago with a black toilet and a black sink. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get rid of either and learned to live with the weirdness. Seriously people….BLACK toilets? WTF?

  • MrsStacyD

    2013/06/21 at 11:05 am

    Best post EVER!!!
    I on the other hand would not mind this toilet, my thinking is maybe it wouldn’t look as dirty when I haven’t found the time to clean it??

  • Eve

    2013/06/21 at 12:15 pm

    Although I hate it that you are stuck running that hateful mile 17, I do love to read such lovely writing. You rock, Heather. Keep running.

  • Her Ladyship

    2013/06/21 at 12:37 pm

    We’re looking at houses right now and that apparently was a thing a while back – all-black bathroom fixtures. Seriously, what is up with that? It’s horrendous. Glad that you were able to get it out of your life. Baby steps!

  • Mel

    2013/06/21 at 1:24 pm

    We’d had a move from hell, with 4 year old and 6 month old, had to move from the house we had supposedly closed on after some problem with a city sewer line. We didn’t move too far, up the street to a duplex, and since it was Christmas we actually dragged the tree up the street. The final straw for me was when I realized that only toilet had a cushy foam seat that was ripped and supernasty. I broke down and started crying because that was IT, final straw. I was so happy to see a regular toilet seat. It’s not a small thing, having a toilet you are not grossed out by!

  • Shannon Bradley-Colleary

    2013/06/21 at 2:32 pm

    What is it about toilets? My relationship ended on a beach in California. My man had driven me ten miles up the coast in order to pick the perfect location to tell me he was moving out and our relationship was over. As I was negotiating to keep this dead animal alive I realized I had to pee. I told him to “hold that thought” and rushed into the beach bathrooms. In one of the stalls as i squatted trying not to let me butt touch the toilet seat, I noticed there was one piece of graffiti inside my stall and it said, “No Future.” It was right. Here’s to you reaching the finish line!

  • denice

    2013/06/21 at 3:13 pm

    I think I’m at about mile 18 after two and a half years at mile 17. I might even be at mile 19 or 20. The problem is, and here is the problem, my spirit, mind and body are tooth and nail stuck at 17. They are holding onto 17 like nobody’s business. And knowing that doesn’t actually help thrust me into the actual now of 18, 19 or even 20. It’s going to be a lot of work to acknowledge 18, 19, 20. But after I do that work the rest of the numbers will come easily. I am looking forward.

  • Katybeth

    2013/06/21 at 3:52 pm

    YES! Thank you. I have been wondering about all the poop talk everywhere (Twitter, Facebook, and blogs with kids, EVERYWHERE) and feeling bad….I never thought about poop (unless it was in the bathtub) when my son was going through that stage. I did say, “have you used the bathroom when his tummy hurt” and suggested he use the bathroom before we left any place. Other than that his bowel movements were just not an issue….” Someone might say…well if you had a kid that (fill in the black) you would have paid more attention. But I’m not sure I would have…I parent with benign neglect, I guess. Respect for all those that do it differently!

  • Debra

    2013/06/21 at 4:00 pm

    Hi Heather. Great post. One of those posts that made me wish you could share more; which is totally selfish, since, uh, here’s your toilet, right? Right there. What more do I want? More about the metaphor, or what makes you want to call this black hole of darkness shitter a metaphor. Hmmm. Wait. Just answered my own question.

    My landlords have this 30 year old house they are career neglecting and just not willing to do much to protect their stuff. So they sure don’t care about the….what do I call it…. upscale in the 70’s decor, all the faucets leak, wallpaper that hasn’t been painted over is hideous. Makes you wonder just what hideous design was under the wallpaper they painted olive green. That had to be really bad.

    They have these “designer toilets” that are the kind of blue that make you run to the basement without waiting for the tornado sirens, and 30 years later, you can’t find a toilet seat to match it. They are “backordered” which means that you can find them, BUTT, (tee hee) they are $90. So they put a white one on it. In another bathroom the toilet is a breast milk baby shit brown, with a white toilet seat on it. First thing anyone notices, not oh, look how cute this is, and oh, how much space you have, or what a wonderful view. It’s WHAT WERE THEY THINKING WITH THAT TOILET SEAT? And they just can’t stop saying it also….like somehow I have failed to notice it. I was just thankful that no one else had ever sat on it to tell you the truth, considering we cleaned actual feces off one bathroom wall, cleverly disguised by the u.g.l.i.e.s.t wallpaper that ever lived. I guess they thought the shit spots were fertilizer for the fungus/mushrooms.That bathroom still smells like boy pee no matter how much it is cleaned. Guessing some anal expulsive toddler was potty trained in that bathroom. Okay. That’s all the potty talk I have in me for today. But you have inspired me……..

  • Debra

    2013/06/21 at 4:02 pm

    discus is hitler

  • susanfish

    2013/06/22 at 6:57 am

    Generally true. Heather’s particular four year old has severe chronic constipation issues, though.


    2013/06/22 at 4:11 pm

    Now here’s a case of missing an apostrophe as well as a whole suffix. The word is ‘YOU’RE’ not your. Sorry about that, no offence meant but it’s just something that really is very annoying.

    As you were.


    2013/06/22 at 4:16 pm

    Or even Eats, Shoots and Leaves vs Eats Shoots and Leaves.


    2013/06/22 at 4:19 pm

    That is one horrible, ugly thing. And it shows every single mark. It needs to be shattered into a million pieces and used to make a mosiac. Then again, maybe not….

  • Erin Gill

    2013/06/23 at 7:23 am

    When you find that finish line, can you throw me a google maps link or something? My legs are really tired.

  • Guest

    2013/06/23 at 12:14 pm

    “Its” is actually the proper possessive word for “it.” It’s = it is. Since she has a degree in English, I’m sure she was fully aware an apostrophe was not needed. Let’s not be so critical, eh?

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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