Unmentionables – Friday Fictioneers

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, a writing group, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Thanks to her as always for her time and leadership. Thank you to Mary Shipman for this week’s fascinating photo.

The objective is to write a 100-word story based on the photo prompt. All are welcome to participate. My story follows.

mary-shipman1
PHOTO PROMPT © Mary Shipman

(99 words)

Unmentionables

The slip hung in her mother’s closet in the corner behind her work clothes. Serena never saw her mother wear it, but detected the scent of her lilac perfume. Threading her arms into familiar straps, silk brushed against her face as mountains of fabric cascaded around her.

Its delicate sheerness on her skin transported her into the land of grownups; the unmentionables, discretion, assumptions, and that look across the table at dinner. She tried it on for size in the mirror.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“Nothing, mama.”

Still, the slip would be in the same spot. Waiting.

****************

For more stories from the Fictioneers, click here.

Advertisements

A Communication Tip for the Holidays and Beyond: “Me Time”

5263971807_804b291383

Have you ever been in a conversation where you were so busy formulating a response that you missed what the other person said altogether? Sometimes I think life happens this way; life as a conversation where we are only half-way committed, half-way listening. Many times we are so fixated on predicting what happens next that we miss out on the actual moment as it happens. We miss what was said. We miss the moment. We miss the whole point.

I had an opportunity to attend a communication skills workshop sponsored by my son’s school called, “Communicating with Family Members During the Holidays” and how to have less stress and more cooperation. I can use all the help I can get, so I went. And I was pleasantly surprised.

First, the facilitator had us play a game. A volunteer told a story about a happy event in her life. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the volunteer, half of the room was told to ignore her. All I had to do was whip out my smartphone and become consumed. I didn’t listen to a word she said. I got wrapped up in my Internet world and tuned her out. It was really easy to do.

Her point? We, as adults, ignore our kids sometimes. How does it feel when someone is talking to you and, while you very well may be listening, are staring at your smartphone? Sure, you don’t mean to do it. But there it is! That smartphone is attached to your hand and you can’t seem to get rid of it. It’s like a leech, sucking the juices out of your brain. I know, because I do it.

Then, the facilitator introduced “Me Time.” The idea is very simple. You give your child your undivided attention for a scheduled time of 10 to 15 minutes. That’s not a lot of time, right? Anyone can do that.

“Me Time” is based on principles of play therapy, which may be more widely practiced with younger children. This session of “Me Time” could even be called “Mommy and Johnny Time,” for example, or whatever makes sense for your child. My 12-year-old son has called it, “The Dreaded Time with Mom.” So, whatever works. Really, it can work for anyone at any age, including your resistant teenager.

There are few parameters for a successful session of “Me Time.” They are as follows:

  1. Schedule the 10-15 minute period of “Me Time.” I know it’s only 10-15 minutes, but if it’s scheduled it may feel more special and purposeful.
  2. Your child chooses the activity. Got that one? Your child chooses! And you must do it no matter what! If your child wants you to hop around on one foot and blow bubbles, then that’s what you must do. If your child wants to watch TV, that’s what you do. If your kid wants to play on his smartphone and ignore you, that’s your activity.
  3. Considering #2, you may suggest that the chosen activity not break any family rules (like no balls in the house).
  4. There’s no need to spend money. The activity is for such a short period, there’s really no need. Still, if you to make certain the focus is away from money, you may want to state this up front.
  5. As the parent, you cannot correct or direct the activity. Also important, you cannot ask, “Why?” Your child may view this as judging.
  6. You can’t play unless you’re asked. Don’t assume your child necessarily wants you to be involved. This idea coincides with the idea of play therapy where the child may need time to work something out. This is best done without any interference. You are merely an observer if this happens.

Discuss these parameters openly before you engage in “Me Time.” There’s no need for secrets. Truly, I think this idea could work for any relationship, even spouses or significant others. Why not? I have yet to try that, but I did try this idea with my kids.

This is what happened with my 9-year-old. First we cuddled in his blanket cave and made funny faces at each other. Then, he did a series of musical numbers where he got up to sing and dance. I clapped and cheered. He was hilarious and clearly wanted to show off his dance moves. I had no idea. This is not something he does that often and, clearly, he wanted an audience.

When it came to my 12-year-old, he said, “I thought you were kidding. Really?” First, he wanted me to wait outside his room. His little joke. Come to find out, he needed help with his homework, so that’s what we did. To make up for that, we watched a few “Dear Diary” cat videos. Those are always a good laugh!

But the biggest eye-opener? It was so relaxing to surrender my time voluntarily to someone else. To not be in charge or direct. To just listen. To be completely present. It felt so refreshing and helped me refocus my energy on my kids when it goes astray as, of course, it happens even with the best intentions. I highly recommend you give it a shot, especially during the busy holiday season when you feel short of time and stressed. I bet the more often you share this experience with your kids, the more insightful it will become and maybe, just maybe, communication will improve all around.

Time, that thing we’re always chasing or running out of. Why not carve out a little space for the important people in your life and share the gift of time spent together?

photo credit: Merry Christmas! via photopin (license)

What’s your name again?

My ability to hold names inside my brain has reached its maximum capacity. I may recognize you, but it’s likely I won’t remember your actual name. If I make an attempt to call you by your name, there’s a high probability that I will get it wrong. I will call you “Lisa” when your real name is “Linda.” It’s in the ballpark, right? No?

Blogging friends, I appreciate that your name is written down for me. Thank you. Truly. I feel safe and successful here in the blogosphere because, even if I don’t know your actual name, I know I can call you by your written name and there’s a good chance you’ll accept it. In real life, things are not so black and white.

How did I get here? My husband would say that it all began with the birth of my first child. When my placenta left my body my brain went along with it. Oh, friends, this did not happen! This is false! However, he may have a point. Names flooded my brain at the same time that I was deprived of precious sleep. If you don’t have kids and have trouble recalling names, don’t worry. I’m sure you have your own story and I want to hear all about it. I know we’re not alone.

My story goes something like this. With my first child, I belonged to a mommy group where it was necessary to remember not only the child’s name, but the parent’s name…and one more step…connect them together. Now I was masterful at this, even when I had a screaming child on my arm. Fast forward to child #2 and the amount of names you must remember grows exponentially. Now it’s child #1…child #2…parent…connect. Things are getting fuzzy.

Enter children in elementary school and major slippage happens. My brain regains control with a school roster. That helps. Yet, I’m walking on the fault line when my kids play sports, and especially if these sports overlap, as they do. Do I know Johnny from baseball…or is it basketball?

Name recalling reached new lows when I began substitute teaching at the local dance studio, sometimes four or five classes in a night. In any one class, I might encounter the following names: ASHLEY, AUBREY, AUDREY, ALEXIS, ALEXA, ALEX, ALYSSA, and ARIANNA. This is only letter A. I’m not making this stuff up. Not to mention that they all wore the same leotard outfit and bunhead hairdo.

Same outfit, same hair, same moves...you understand.
Same outfit, same hair, same moves…you understand.

These girls smiled sweetly at me up, to a point. After months of trying in earnest, I do believe they turned their bunhead heads on me. For the first time, it became abundantly clear why substitute dance teachers of my youth were so aloof. Here, I had thought some teacher was a pompous prick and full of himself. No, no…this was about self-preservation.

There’s got to be an App for remembering names, right?  iName, iFriend, or WhoRU? I know what you’re thinking. I can practice, just try harder. I can say their name three times after meeting them. I can rhyme their name, create a mental picture of them in my head. Now, if I’ve already met them four times, this is tricky. Either you go on not remembering and continue your smiling and nodding or reveal the obvious and say “I’ve forgotten your name.” This usually works to clear the air.

You feel better if you both forget, don’t you? You are caught in that blank stare with each other and there’s that moment of pure clarity. You know. You breathe a little sigh of relief and say, “I’m sorry. What is your name again?” You both laugh, promise, and hope not to forget for the next time.

Do you have trouble remembering names? Is it a sign of the times? Are we too self-absorbed or distracted? Bad listeners? What do you think?

photo credit: Bunches and Bits {Karina} via photopin cc

To Shoe or Not to Shoe? – Friday Fictioneers – 12/13/13

It’s time for the Friday Fictioneers, hosted by our wonderful host, Queen Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Thanks to Adam Ickes for the photo.

Please read other fine stories from the Fictioneers here.

Genre: General Fiction (100 words)

Copyright – Adam Ickes

To Shoe or Not to Shoe?

Animals don’t wear shoes, mom. Why do we?

We wear them to keep warm and to protect our feet.

Animals don’t need protection.

They have fur and pads.

Why don’t we have pads?

Where are your shoes?

Get your shoes on. You’re not ready to go out the door until your shoes are on your feet.

Whose shoes are these?

They’re just sitting here. Abandoned. Forgotten. Too snug?

Look for the child with no shoes and you’ll see my child. He will be running free on grass pillows, cushioning his feet, and laughing…laughing at the rest of us, wearing shoes.

They Can’t Take My Kiss Away

Last week at my sons’ elementary school, a teacher informed me I could not stand in front of my child’s classroom before school during the drop off. “No parents in the corridor,” exclaimed the teacher in my general direction. Really? Am I the enemy now?

Throughout the year, I have let of number of things roll off me. I’ve seen freshly painted lines and arrows in the parking lot, newly installed signs, fences and video cameras, and memos to read and surveys to complete in my kids’ folders. Volunteer parents dictate the rules of the parking lot, and parking spaces now carry time limits. So many rules and regulations, all in the name of heightened security and safety. I’ve shrugged off the thought that our tax dollars could perhaps be better spent on, oh I don’t know, books. These days, how can we argue with safety?

Never mind the real elephant in the parking lot, the official drop off/pick up site. This is just an accident waiting to happen. The cross walk is situated where kids most likely could be hit. The other day, I almost lost it, yelling at a parent, “I am so soooorrrry.” I very nearly came this close, this close, readers, to honking my horn at her, a Desperate Housewives moment.

Directly before pick up, parents and guardians have been trained to stay away from the classroom. We now have a designated waiting area. The reason being is that it will cut back on unnecessary noise and conversational chatter affecting the students’ learning. So with this, in the name of learning and education, I am on board. This is a logical and a reasonable request.

But to not give my child a kiss before class, this is the last straw. I mean don’t they know my days are numbered? When I step on campus with my fourth grader, I suddenly turn into invisible mom. Who knew I had such superpowers? But my seven-year-old, he stills needs me…

We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of this post, as this blogger’s thought process has wildly thrown off course…

Dear readers, on Mother’s Day, of all days, I read an email about a missing teen, a high school student, who happens to belong to the same water polo club as my son. They don’t know each other, as she is quite a bit older. She’s a high school student, who went missing during school hours.

This announcement stopped me in my tracks for a number of reasons. First, I thought about this mother not knowing the whereabouts of her daughter. There are no words for the despair these parents must feel. I’m not even going to try to put words around this, but know it must be a living hell, a parent’s worst nightmare. I understand this teen is considered at risk and requires medication. I don’t know the circumstances around her disappearance, but that she went missing during school hours, a time in which we expect our kids are supervised, their whereabouts accounted for.

This high school is also where my son practices water polo twice a week. It has occurred to me on a number of occasions that it hasn’t felt safe. The restrooms are located in a dark hallway, accessible to anyone. Now I will forever be watchful, guarded, suspicious, as maybe I should have always been. I have never met this missing teenager, but have shed tears for her, hoping for her safe return.

In the meantime, I can’t help but feel all these enhancements of new signs and fences are superficial band-aides. They may enforce a rule that no parents are allowed in the corridor without a badge. I’m sure it’s coming, and I will abide as a good parent will.

But they can’t take my kiss away. If my kid needs a kiss, he will get one, even if it’s in the parking lot.

photo credit: miuenski via photopin cc

Gone Mental for Dental

The dentist displeases me. Translation: Fuck, I hate the dentist.

You must understand, I typically feel scolded like a misguided child when I’m at the dentist. Have you been flossing? Well, maybe I better look at your flossing technique. Are you scraping between each tooth? Uh, scraping, well, uh, of course, I’m scraping. Who doesn’t scrape when they floss?

Who comes to the dentist with clean teeth? Who are these people? I want to know who you are. I’m going to personally come to your house and force coffee down your throat.

But I’m all joy and positive energy with my children. It will be just a little scraping cleaning. Come along children. My children both have their teeth cleaned at the same time so I sit in between the rooms. You can accomplish this at the dentist with the special divider that is not completely flush to end of the wall. I ask myself, is this merely a construct in which to better hear someone’s pain?

Scanning the scene, watching their squirming bodies, wincing, and talking whilst fingers stir in their mouths, the hygienists chide them about the white furries (that’s what they call them), tartar buildup, and possible calcification. This is a good, new word for my six-year-old. Scrape, scrape.

The squirming doesn’t fly when the doctor arrives. Behold, the doctor. When I have an appointment with doctor, we chat about the gym or mowing the lawn. However, when it comes down to business, it’s about precision, intensity, and focus. Watch out if the hygienist has committed an error, heaven forbid. You don’t want to fall out of the good graces of the doctor. I feel the air sucked out of the room, and clutch the chair tightly, swallowed up inside the fiery inferno.

I can always tell, too, if the hygienist screwed up. I can feel it. There is nothing she can do (I’ve only had women as hygienists.) And if the computer screen freezes up. Holy Moly! The hygienist pleads, It was working just a minute ago. I say to myself, Release me from this chair. Release me. The doctor holds sharp instruments and he’s scowling.

Imagine my horror when my six-year-old is misbehaving, sticking his tongue out every which way. Put your tongue inside your mouth. Stop moving. Be still with your tongue, says the doctor.

Be still, I urge my child. Be still like a statue.

My ten-year-old interrupts this scene with his announcement that he is going to partake in some hot cocoa at our orthodontist downstairs. Momentarily, I reflect that although this is definitely a bad idea just having had a fluoride treatment, and he’s saying this right in front of the hygienist who worked mercilessly on his teeth…I think why not? What that ortho outfit wants for braces…he should wander into their lobby, enjoy a little cup of cocoa, a handful of goldfish crackers, their gourmet cookies…oh, and they also offer coffee by the cup, assorted flavors available. My mouth waters.

The doctor and the hygienist await my response, the room quiet. Of course you can’t. You can’t, son. Remember? Fluoride? My son simply leaves the office with no explanation. The hygienist swears he’s hormonal.

We leave the dentist all smiles and pearly whites, with toys, and the promise to brush better and floss scrapier. Still no cavities. I’m renewed with hope. From now on, we will brush for two minutes twice a day. What better way to do this than with a delightful brushing song, an iPhone App? Certainly this will do the trick; it’s technology lighting the darkness. A spunky dab of toothpaste, with shoes I might add, sings a song about brushing his teeth the right way, doing it twice in a day, and tells you when to switch every 30 seconds. The dab sings:

Brush them back on the inside, top and bottom, down and up and down, brush ’em cuz you got ’em, never let it dangle, brush my tongue, brush it an angle, ain’t it fun….

Or, something like that! My goodness that dab can boogie and even does split jumps.

Upon hearing this song, my six-year-old spins out of the bathroom and into the living room, with arms flailing, the toothbrush nowhere near his mouth. He then flings the toothbrush into the abyss of the toy bucket where I spend the last 45 seconds of the tooth melody searching for said toothbrush. Mom, that song is horrible, he tells me. Remove that app from your phone immediately.

Personally, I thought the song was a little catchy. What’s not to like?

photo credit: kerryj.com via photopin cc

Remembering The Silver Fox

I found myself wandering around in the woods the day my father-in-law died. For 24 years I knew him, and it passed in a blink of an eye. What’s it all for? Life, death, it’s seamless. One day he is here with us, the next he’s gone.

Fred was “The Silver Fox,” quick on his feet, spry, charming, a gentleman with a huge heart, although that was his little secret.

Woods 401

Once early on when I was sick, delirious with fever, and I wanted to have a glass of water by my bedside. Fred kept removing my glass. When I awoke, the glass of water would be nowhere in sight. “I need water. I’m parched,” I told my husband. He would bring it to me, and then zap, Fred would whisk it away. I didn’t know the extent of his OCD then. Later, I laughed.

March_Madness 403

In my twenties, Fred told me, as he did everyone else, “You’re not all there.” The very first time I heard this, I wanted to cry.

Later I got it. He would say, “You’re not all there,” and point his finger to his head. I then laughed in agreement. You’re right, I’m not all there, Fred. Who is? The sooner you realize this in your life, the easier you’ll breathe.

For those who think “They’re all there,” they’re the most confused of us all. As time passes you by, you realize you know less, not more.

Woods

He always brightened someone’s day with small gifts. Me, my husband, his kids, his grandchildren, gas attendants, wait staff at restaurants he frequented, staff at his son’s work….he gave us baked goods, sweet treats, trinkets, statues of dogs and cats, jewelry boxes painted with religious figures, glass sculptures, books, paperweights with butterflies, latch hook rugs with seagulls, condom holders….things that were, uh, puzzling. Okay, things we would never buy for ourselves.

In one of our last conversations, he still wanted to give my sons a present.

Woods 382

He was a giver in abundance. He wasn’t trying to impress anyone. He just wanted you to smile, shrug off your worries if only for a few moments, and “lighten up” as he would say. It’s just who he was.

I think about my own life and who I touch, who is on the receiving end. How can I give the way he did? I find myself clutching onto fear and worry. Why? In the end, all we have in this life is each other.

Woods 422

I will miss you, Fred.

In loving memory
Thomas Fredrick Reese
December 27, 1934 – March 23, 2013