The Beauty of Hands: A Micro Story

 I’d like to thank Jennifer Blanke of the US for her micro story submission ‘The Beauty of Hands’. A touching true story about the symbiotic relationship between hands and the life we lead.

Jennifer Blanke has a BS in Elementary Education and is a mother, teacher, and writer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is currently working on her Master of Fine Arts in Writing degree at Lindenwood University and is an editorial assistant for The Lindenwood Review.

This will be her first published piece, so it’s an honour to have it on my little blog!

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you!


Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

The Beauty of Hands

           My dying grandmother’s delicate hands lay in mine, her fingers curled in the fetal position, like a chipmunk nestled snugly, taking cover from the frigid night.

            I’ve never liked my hands. They’re not elegant, or feminine, or what any girl would wish her hands to be. Palming a basketball wasn’t that amazing when it didn’t transfer to the agile footwork needed to keep me off the bench. I’ve squeezed my big-boned hand through a bracelet, only to panic when I couldn’t remove it. As I comforted my grandmother in her final hours, I glanced down at my large, clunky, masculine hands holding her dainty ones. Visible veins tiring of pumping blood showed through her gossamer skin. My eyes traced the vessels that had carried ninety-six years of life and I was transported to the davenport in the front room of the two-story on Locust Avenue.

            We sat side-by-side at the metal tray tables eating snacks from little bowls, each with a deck of cards in hand, playing solitaire. We worked crosswords and word searches for hours while watching a marathon of game shows. Puzzles were next and I smiled as her hand passed me the final piece to complete the beautiful countryside landscape. Her hands gave.

            Descending the cellar stairs together to get cans from storage, she’d walk ahead of me, her hand smothering mine to the railing, while saying, Now, Jenny, hold on. As if I could let go under her grip. She’d reach for the dusty pull string of the single bulb and leave a gray streak as her fingers gently brushed her black trousers. As the light cast a ghostly glow on the dirt floor, I’d run up the stairs, leaving her to defend herself against the shadow monsters. Her hands protected.

            When Morris the cat appeared on her back porch, she filled the Cool Whip container with water and the Country Crock with kibble every morning and night. When he brought friends, her hands coaxed them closer with food in one palm and stroked soft fur with the other. She made a blanket bed for Morris and the females. I think she was hoping for a litter so she would always have a feline friend. Her hands cared.

            When her epileptic son passed away long before his time and hers, the hands that spent a lifetime preparing food, folding clothes, cleaning house, and providing companionship, knew not what to do. Every moment of every day was spent taking care of his needs. Her family was her life and she would have to find something to fill her days. Her hands loved.

            When Alzheimer’s consumed my granddad’s body and she could no longer take care of him, her hands signed the forms admitting him into the assisted care facility. She visited daily, bringing him the paper and his favorite candy. She remained by his side until he passed even after he forgot the voices of his children, the faces of his grandkids, and her name. Her hands grieved.

            The static hum of the fluorescent lights and the scent of antiseptic and death assailed my senses pulling me away from the flow of memories. The wrinkled hands that I held mirrored an entire lifetime. Her gracious hands saw the best and the worst and they were ready to finally rest.     I blinked away the stream of tears and saw my hands reflected in hers. They looked so lovely in her light. My gentle hands stroked my tiny newborn’s brow as she nursed. They carried my strong-willed toddler to the time-out chair. My hands stirred cumin into my family’s favorite chili. They held my love’s hands, tucked safely in his strength. I saw my own devoted hands paying the bills, handing over the car keys, comforting my disappointed daughter, and welcoming my oldest home after a difficult first year of college.

            Giving, protecting, caring, loving, grieving. It was then that I saw: my hands were just like hers.



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Thank you for reading this blog, if you’d like to submit a story for consideration to be published, please visit our submissions page.

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The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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After The Fire: A True Story

We’d like to thank Claire Taylor of the US for her short story submission “After The Fire”, a dramatic true story about a traumatic childhood event which shaped her feelings and perspective’s into Motherhood.

Claire Taylor is a mother, writer, and Licensed Massage Therapist. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared or is upcoming in Yellow Arrow Journal, The Loch Raven Review, Capsule Stories, American Writer’s Review, and Canary Literary Journal. Her writing about motherhood and depression has appeared on Scary Mommy. She is the creator of Little Thoughts, a monthly newsletter of original stories and poetry for children. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland (United States), and can be found online at clairemtaylor.com and you can follow Claire on Twitter @ClaireM_Taylor and Instagram @todayweread.

Photo Credit: Frederick Medina on Unsplash

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click on them and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you. 

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Rustic/Industrial Succulent Planters


After the fire

After The Fire

I was seven years old when my mother nearly burned down our house. My brother, sister and I were watching TV in the den while Mom was getting dinner ready. She poured oil into a heavy cast iron pan and set the pan on an open flame to heat. We were going to have french fries. The phone rang and I went into my dad’s study to pick up the call. 

“Mom!” I shouted to her from the opposite end of the den. “Phone!” I set the receiver down on the desk and went back to my spot on the couch. 

“Who is it?” Mom asked as she came out of the kitchen and made her way toward the phone. 

“Aunt Denise.” 

“Oh,” she said, and gently closed the study door behind her. 

I can picture her sitting back against the cracked vinyl of my dad’s office chair, her feet up on his desk, distracted, at ease. I remember the sound of her laughter rising over the din of the television. I remember the flash of orange reflected in the TV screen. The brief moment that felt like slow motion minutes as my brother and I turned toward the kitchen, confusion melting into understanding and morphing into panic. I remember the fear in my brother’s voice as he shouted, “fire!” and that same fear on my mother’s face as she threw open the study door and paused for a split second before racing across the den and into the kitchen. She pulled a container of salt down from the cabinet and poured it over the tower of flames. They raged on. She frantically looked around the kitchen, her head on a swivel searching for aid and coming up empty. She caught sight of us in the kitchen doorway–three little wide-eyed faces–and without hesitation, grabbed the handle of the pan and carried it out of the kitchen and through the living room. She pulled open the front door, letting in a breeze that blew the flames back over her hands, and flung the burning pan into the air. It landed facedown in the middle of the yard with a thud, suffocating the flames and charring the grass. 

The front door remained open as my mother stood at the kitchen sink, shoulders hunched as she ran cool water over the blistering backs of her hands. My sister, so young then, had disappeared into our bedroom in search of a stuffed animal. She wasn’t with my brother and me when my dad came home from work to find a pan sitting in the yard, the front door ajar, his wife somewhere unseen, and two of his three children racing toward him yelling, “She’s burned! She’s burned!” He thought we meant my sister until she came toddling into the living room with a teddy bear tucked beneath her arm, until he turned the corner into the kitchen and saw my mother leaning against the side of the sink, her eyes swollen from tears. I remember the way he wrapped his body around hers, pulled her into his chest, his embrace. The way their foreheads pressed together, radiating warmth. 




That fire was the source of my insomnia. For years I’d lie in bed thinking I smelled something burning, or wake in the middle of the night from dreams in which my room had been set ablaze, the house slowly turning to ash and disappearing all around me as I sat trapped in my bed, powerless to stop the flames. I was constantly afraid that everything would catch fire. I turned the ceiling fan off at night despite the insufferable heat and humidity of Texas summers because I was certain the whirring sound meant it would spark and the whole house would burn to the ground. Well into my thirties, I still turn to my husband whenever an appliance makes a funny noise, or a lamp flickers when the air conditioner flips on and I ask “do you think it will catch fire?” It has taken him a decade to calmly reply “no” without first giving me a puzzled look. 

I blame my mother for these anxieties, for my need to get out of bed each night and double-check that I turned off the stove. How irresponsible does a person need to be to leave a pan of hot oil sitting unattended on a gas range? What kind of mother forgets about the safety of her children? Forgets that she was in the middle of making their dinner? 

I have a box of old photos in my living room that my son likes to look through. He pulls it from the shelf with his tiny thick hands and dumps the photos into a pile on the floor. There are pictures of my siblings and me dressed up and sitting in front of a Christmas tree. One of my brother, towheaded and round-cheeked, awkwardly holding a wrinkly, swaddled newborn me. There are school portraits, family vacation photos, and way too many images of my sister and me wearing hideous dresses or high-waisted floral patterned shorts. But my son’s favorite photograph is one from my mother’s 35th birthday. She’s sitting at a kitchen table, a cake in front of her with those number candles, 3 and 5, lit up in the middle of it. She’s smiling brightly despite the fact that three small children are climbing and hanging all over her, each of us scrambling forward to blow out the candles. 

The first time he held up that photo, it occurred to me that I was only a little older than my son when that picture was taken, and only a little younger now than my mother was on that birthday. I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be 35 with three children under the age of six, overwhelmed as I was by the demands of caring for just one toddler-aged child. I looked at the photo, at my little sister not yet a year old in the image, and flashed back to a day when my son was around nine months old and increasingly daring in his efforts to cruise around our living room from one piece of furniture to the next. He was holding on to the side of our sofa and reaching out to grab the coffee table. He’ll never make it, I thought and I moved toward him to help him navigate the gap, but at the last second, I stopped myself. How will he trust himself if I’m constantly stepping in to make things easier, I reasoned. How will he learn his limits if I never let him test them? So I held back and I watched him reach out for the table. Watched him let go of the sofa. Watched him fall forward and bash his chin against the edge of the coffee table. Blood filled his mouth instantaneously, muffling his howls of pain. 


Going Short book coverGoing Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction


I couldn’t get the bleeding to stop and I couldn’t think clearly. I tried to push him to my breast to comfort him by nursing, but he pulled away and screamed even louder. Should I call an ambulance? Rush him to the emergency room? Was he going to die? It was just a bump on the chin, but I didn’t know what could kill a nine-month-old. Everything, I assumed. I felt panicked and desperate. I called my husband to have him call the pediatrician, and then I called my parents. My dad answered the phone, and though he is calm and comforting in a crisis, I remember thinking how much I wished my mom had been home. 

As I drove to the pediatrician’s office, my son still crying and bleeding in his car seat, I pictured my mother on the day I fell on the playground in preschool. I was climbing up the side of a big metal fire truck and slipped on the rung of a ladder, whacking my chin against the metal. It split open, requiring stitches. I waited in the office of the church building for her to come pick me up and bring me to the hospital, and I can still recall the heartbreaking relief I felt as she walked through the door. 

I pictured my mother kneeling on the bathroom floor, gently applying bandaids to scraped knees. My mother pulling the sheet back to let me crawl into bed beside her after a bad dream. The sound of her voice saying, “oh honey.” The weight of her hand smoothing over my hair. My mother holding a bag of ice to my swollen cheek as I sat on the edge of a hospital bed waiting for x-rays. My mother wiping tears away from the tip of my nose. My mother carrying a pan of fire out of the kitchen, not right through the den, just a few steps to the backyard, but through the living room, the long way out of the house, away from the area where her children were waiting, and out the front door, holding tight even as the flames blew back, scalding the thin tissue of her hands. My mother, overworked and overtired, enjoying a brief adult conversation, a moment of respite in a long day of parenting young children. My mother making a simple mistake, a forgivable error. My mother staying calm and clear in a moment of danger, knowing better than to throw water on a grease fire. My mother not nearly burning our house down, but heroically saving the house from catching on fire, sacrificing her own safety to protect her children. 

My hands trembled as I gripped the steering wheel and glanced back at my son’s angry red face and bloody lips. I pictured my mother’s hands, mottled and scarred in the spots where the fire had burned her. I pictured them reaching out, gently cupping my cheeks, and I knew everything would be okay. 




Thanks

Thank you for reading this blog. You can read more stories HERE and if you’d like to submit a story for consideration to be published, please visit our submissions page.

If you’d like to keep up to date with all the latest stories, news, promos (including writing competitions and giveaways) plus receive a FREE Ebook, sign up to our mailing list here or fill in the form below.


Get your FREE Ebook

Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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‘Domesticating Mom’ with guest blogger Almondie Shampine

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Some of you may remember a Mum Life Story I posted back in October about a mum named Almondie Shampine. Almondie told us of her experience of being a working mum and how her perceptions and goals changed after her health took a turn for the worst. Now a stay at home mum, author, blogger and a book publisher she has graciously decided to share with us once again.

This touching, thought-provoking article describes the evolution of a Mother from a teen mum to a mum of teens and how her desperate cry for freedom was extinguished by the love of her children.

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you.

Photo by Katie Emslie on Unsplash


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‘The Institute’ by Stephen King (Buy it now)


Domesticating Mom

11/5/19

I’m 37 today.

(Funny, aside of me visualizing a little dance, swaying my arms in front of me and behind me, while singing ‘It’s my birthday. It’s my birthday.’)

I hated my birthday for a good three or more decades. I’m sure many can relate. The birthday goes downhill the moment one’s mind gets caught up on it being ‘a special day’, and the expectations are quick to follow. One minor disappointment thus leads to frenzied overcompensation to make it ‘the best birthday ever’. It becomes an emotional roller coaster, as what goes up must inevitably come down, and special occasions are full of those ups and downs.

I became a teen parent, pregnant in my 18th year of life. Instead of sending out my wedding invitations, which had been the original plan, I was making phone calls to share the news of my pregnancy with the shamed side note that there wouldn’t be a wedding, as my then-fiance had walked, taking all my dreams of my desired and aspired-for future with him and changing the entire course of my life.

A whole life ahead of me, a life I’d barely just begun, and I was to be a Mom, first and foremost, for the rest of my life, and a single Mom, at that. Three years away from being able to have a legal cocktail, yet responsible for raising and supporting a tiny human all on my own. I could no longer fit in with people my age due to being a Mom. When they were partying downstairs or next door to me, I would outwardly complain that their music was too loud, their swearing too much, or that the stench of their pot-smoking was making its way into my apartment, while feelings of loneliness and betrayal ate away at me on the inside, because they’d been my friends, and not a single one of them made that 13-step trek up the stairs or took the three steps next door to my apartment to see how I was doing – not throughout my pregnancy or thereafter. They’d stopped inviting me, stopped asking me to drive them places, stopped even asking if we could talk or if I could give them advice on something they were going through. It was as though I just stopped existing.

I began frequenting places where I could find other Moms, such as parks, and tried making friends with coworkers that had kids, but they looked at me like I was too young and would treat me like the ‘typical teenager’ that I couldn’t be, wasn’t allowed to be, and would never be able to be. Many times I made the mistake of thinking that interested males were making the choice of wanting to be with me, while accepting I had a child. I assumed that meant they knew that I was looking for commitment, so it would devastate me when, after the fact, they’d tell me they weren’t ready for a family, or didn’t want to be a family guy. It confounded me to no end. Until I watched movies like American Pie and all-the-rage young adult movies at that time that talked about MILFS, single moms being perceived as ‘being more experienced’, and the idea that single moms or older or more mature women were great for casual affairs, but nothing more than that. This led to many years of false hopes.





Time was my enemy. It was torture. Being so young, it seemed to pass intolerably slow. It was only thoughts of the future that kept me dragging myself out of bed most days on so little sleep. At first, it was just waiting for me to be old enough for people to start respecting me and taking me seriously. I creeped through my 19th year; my 20th year passed even more slowly. My 21st birthday was celebrated with my Mom, because I’d lost all my friends. For a short time, between my 21st and 22nd year, I believed I’d found the person I’d spend my life with, and the years prior faded away as having all been worth it during that time. …Until he disclosed that he didn’t want to be a family guy after it was disclosed to him that I was carrying his child. 0 for 2. 2 children conceived from 2 different guys that weren’t ready to be a father by the time I was 22. I could kiss any future, healthy prospective relationship goodbye; nor could I ever hope to be respected for anything other than being that single Mom with two kids from two different fathers.

My 22nd birthday was spent pregnant and alone, just like my 19th. My 23rd spent trying to get back on my feet after having lost everything due to childcare being more than I could make with a full-time job. My 24th was spent battling for my life. Single Mom, poor, living in the worst (cheapest) side of the city, not having any friends or any family that would even notice my absence for quite some time, made me a really easy target for predators. That was the year I began counting down the days. Every exhausted night before bed, I would put an x on the calendar marking the end of another day. I began celebrating the end of every week, the end of every month, the end of every year. It showed me forward movement. The passage of time.

Every birthday, I hated, because all it meant to me was just the beginning of a new year, where I’d have to fight through another 364 days to get to the end of it. I’d count down the years of my children being grown. 15 more years. 12 more years. 10 more years. All I could feel was time just looming ahead. So much time. Too much time. Every year I was crushed with the overwhelming anxiety that I would not be able to make it through another year. I’d barely made it through the last, how would I possibly make it through another? I felt terribly alone. Terribly lonely.

My heart had been made to love. I was a lover. A nurturer. A helper. I wanted a family. A full family. A true family. I wanted a partner to share my life with. I wanted the forever. I wanted marriage. I wanted the growing-old with someone. I needed deep connections. Needed someone I could call my best friend. I felt like a neglected flower – once so full of bloom and vibrancy, wilting and withering away to decay.

I waited for people my age to catch up to me. I watched them form partnerships, get married, and begin families of their own. I looked forward to cookouts, our kids getting together, family-oriented celebrations and parties, but still, I didn’t belong. My kids didn’t belong. I was never invited, nor would anyone else show when I threw cookouts of my own. My kids were much older than their kids. Those parents were married living married life. The last thing they wanted was a young single mother, a bachelorette, walking around to remind their men of the single life. I would try to make friends with my children’s friend’s parents, but my youth and my being unmarried maintained me as being the oddball out.


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‘Mangoes & Monkey bread’ by Emily Joop (Buy it now)


Every future hope that would keep me waking to the present and keep me tackling each and every day would never come to pass, where I’d grasp on to another future hope, all relative to the passage of time, to my children getting older with me inevitably getting older alongside them. Me holding onto the optimistic view of it being a good thing I started my family young because I’d still be fairly young when they were grown, was crucial towards my continued hopes that one day … One day things would be different.

One day I’d be able to go on those road trips. One day I’d be able to experience that youth I missed out on. One day I’d be able to go bar-hopping, or go dancing, or be able to have a fancy date. One day I’d know what it’s like to go to a spa, or to a hairdresser, and I’d know what it’s like to spoil myself, pamper my body, get all dressed up and go out on the town. One day I’d be able to attract a decent man without him being turned off by me having children, and I’d be able to have friends and go out to eat and be a human being, a person, a woman, and not just a Mom. I’d be able to cherish romance and walk around naked again and spend an entire day luxuriating in physical pleasantries and allowing myself to feel love, both the giving and the receiving of it, uninhibited. I’d finally be able to live my dreams fully, and commit myself to them 100 percent, instead of so frequently having to put them on the backburner. I’d finally be able to have the life I was supposed to have, the life I was meant to have.

All these years I thought I was raising and grooming my children to get them to the point of being adults. I thought I was getting them through all the developmental milestones of being full grown. I thought I was training them to survive independently, self-sufficiently from me. As a mom, it was my number one job to support them, provide them safety and security, guide them through their growing years, teach them how to overcome those obstacles in life – first, to carry them, second, to be their step-ladder, and third, to be their spotter as they made their way over those hurdles all on their own. It was my sacrifice to them. 18 years of putting their needs, wants, dreams, desires, over my own while my life remained dormant. On pause. Waiting. Waiting for the time when I could start living again.

37 years old. I’m celebrating the passage of those 18 birthdays that I waited for for so long. I’m looking back. Shaking my head in wonder. Realizing that I’d gotten it all wrong all along. Like a wild feral cat that only lives for their own survival, their own comfort, their own needs and desires, I was captured in a crate just by the beating of my kids’ hearts, imprisoned within a home that always had to have heat, and food, and a place to sleep. No matter how much I mewled and scratched at the door to escape, they would distract my attention away by wanting to play with me or forcing me to curl up with them. They never left me unsupervised, and would always call me back if I strayed too far.

They forced me to take care of myself. Made me get up when all I wanted to do was sleep. Made me eat when all I wanted to do was starve. Made me fight to live for everyday I felt like dying, and even saved my life when I actually was dying. They urged me to swim when I was drowning and made me weather every storm. First, they taught me to climb mountains, and then they made me move them. They showed me that no obstacle is too high and that dead-end roads are only an illusion -there’s no end of the road, only a road not yet built. They showed me that the only thing truly impossible in my life was the ability to give up. They were scrupulous and rigid. Demanding and inflexible. They’d conditioned me by rewarding me with happiness when I was on my best behaviors, and simply ignoring me when I was not. Not once did they give up hope. Not once did they lose faith. No matter how much I resisted.

With patience and unrelenting vigor, they kept at it, day after day, week after week, year after year, for 18 years. And then on this birthday, they gave me my most-desired gift. They opened the door and they offered me my freedom. “You deserve it, Mom. Go have fun. It’s your special day. Do whatever you want.” I stood at the door, looking out, listening for that call of the wild that had been so strong and enticing for so many years; it sounded so differently than it did before. Cold. Dark. Mournful. Lonely. Miserable.

That’s when I knew. All along, my children had been grooming me for 18 years. Taming me. Domesticating me. I never would have survived out there in the wild. My heart too big. I was never cut out to be a hunter or to prey on other things. Nor was I ever capable of running with a pack. I wasn’t a follower, but neither did I have what it took to lead. I would have been the hunted of the hunter, the preyed upon of the predator, the hider of the seeker. Instead, my children provided me safety and security, warmth and belonging, nurture and affection, and a forever family, giving me my best chance to become my best self. All while letting me believe that I was raising them and providing them the tools they needed to survive without me, it was they all along providing me the skills I needed to survive without them.

Almondie

You can visit Almondie’s website at www.freebirdexpresspublishing.com or follow her blog at www.freebirdexpresspublishing.blogspot.com

If your on Quora, you’ll find her profile here https://www.quora.com/profile/Almondie-Shampine

And you’ll find her books for sale on Amazon HERE (Available in both paperback and e-book).

Thanks

Thanks for reading this blog, I hope you find inspiration and motivation from these posts and that you might find the courage to reach out to us and share your own Mum Life Story. Don’t forget to follow us (bottom of page) or sign up to our mailing list for all the latest news, stories and promo’s including giveaways and writing competitions, plus receive a FREE Ebook exclusive to email subscribers.


Get your FREE Ebook

Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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