32 Going on 20

I was thinking the other day, how I see my thirties as a second chance at my twenties.  I feel like I’m doing all the things I should’ve been doing ten years ago, but just didn’t get around to, because I didn’t know then what I know now.  A part of me wishes I had finished college, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do until less than a year ago.  Had I toiled through school and graduated, I probably wouldn’t have had the experiences I’ve had, or met the people I did, and I wouldn’t trade all that for a degree in something I wasn’t passionate about.

Not that I’m passionate about Medical Billing and Coding, but it’s a marketable skill for which I have the aptitude for, not to mention it’s a rung on a ladder, rather than a stepstool (i.e. not a dead end).  What I like most about it is that it’s not customer service oriented.  We don’t have to greet customers with some line of baloney the higher-ups cooked up (and don’t have to say, and probably never did, because they didn’t start out at the bottom, because they had a degree, etc.).

I waitress at a fifties-style Greek diner–a position where customer service is tantamount, but I also have the freedom to be myself.  All we have to do is tell them what the specials are, and, at the end, ask if they would like any homemade (I always mention homemade) pie or cheesecake.  I don’t have a script I have to follow.  I tend to give terrible customer service (not intentionally) when I have to be unnatural–I come off as very tense, because not being able to be myself stresses me out.

When I worked at Walgreens, even if the same person came in everyday for a pack of cigarettes, we had to ask them every single time, “Would you care to buy or donate a candy bar to the U.S.O.?”  The manager didn’t worry about cartons of cigarettes being stolen, but she worried about us not upselling fifty cent candy bars.  Retail is rife with common nonsense.

This is why I’m going into a field that fits my introverted and no B.S. personality.  What I will be doing is too important to fool with foolishness such as conversing with people from a script.

Seguing to my opening statement, I am doing, in my thirties, what most people did in their twenties–get married, have children, and getting a formal education.  A part of me wishes, had I known then what I know now, that I had done that last thing first.

I feel like I am trying to squeeze in all the things I should’ve done ten years ago, especially when it comes to my writing.  If nothing else, I should’ve gotten an English degree (I could’ve always went back to school, but at least I would’ve had something).  My uncle once said my dad (his brother) is the only person he’s ever known who went to college to get an education (rather than career advancement).  I am choosing to go back for both, though the more money thing is what tipped the scales towards going back, when for so long, I was convinced I wasn’t smart enough to finish college.  Now I know I just need to apply myself.  I can do this.

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Writing Prompt: If I was the title of a book…

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Me–Between Two Worlds:  My Life as a Former Mormon in the Buckle of the Bible Belt

My 8-month-old daughter–Drool and Raspberries

My husband–Spaghetti and Swedish Meatballs (my husband is Swedish and Italian; Italian Sausage and Swedish Meatballs was my original title, but one might get the wrong idea)

My mom–Split:  The Personalities of Babs

My dad–How to Jackleg Anything:  Memoir of an Unhandyman

My brother–Starving Artisan:  A Musical Life Stuck in a Horror Flick

My maternal grandmother, Bernadean–Nana Dearest (if you knew my grandmother, you’d understand)

My maternal grandfather–In His Shadow:  My Existence as Billy Graham’s Doppleganger

My paternal grandfather–The Man with the Strawberry Nose (I’m guessing rosacea)

My paternal grandmother–Dancing with the Man with the Strawberry Nose (my grandmother always said she’d rather dance than eat)

My friend, A.M.–Uncommonly Cored (as she is a teacher against Common Core)

My friend, Lori–Six Kids and the Beard:  Mormon Life in the Redneck Riviera

My friend, Mandy–The Cavegirl Diaries (as she is a Paleo/primal eater)

*What is a title that would apply to you, or someone you know?

 

The Saturday Evening Post-It

So I am writing a story to submit to the Saturday Evening Post short story contest.  See:  http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/fiction-contest

I like specific guidelines, one of which is this:  Think local. The Post has historically played a role in defining what it means to be an American. Your story should in some way touch upon the publication’s mission: Celebrating America, past, present, and future. 

I am an American who lives in America, living in a town that supplies endless material (both complimentary and not so complimentary).  Lots of writers love to write about the South (Tennessee Williams comes to mind).  I’d had the road trip for a story all mapped out, until I realized it might be too religious in nature.  It was going to be about a group of four girlfriends, one of whom leaves the comforting folds of Mormonism, and how her leaving affects the rest of them.

My idea preceding that one was going to be about two sisters, Lucy and Emma Potlocki (who go by the “Anglicized” surname of Lock), who seek their fortune by auditioning for the part of Scarlett O’Hara in 1939, then I googled for some information, and that’s when I came upon “The Scarlett O’Hara War”–a TV-movie about just that.  Sometimes you wonder if your idea is original, or, if somewhere, in the back of your mind, it’s a memory.

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According to Branden Rathert, our local radio host, when one steps into Pensacola, they’re stepping into the year 1927.  I don’t think places like Emerald City (google it, if you want) existed in 1927, at least not openly, though Pensacola does have a church on every corner (and some in between).

However, I will not be setting my story in Florida, but rather in Sidney, Montana, where I was a live-in nanny for three girls.  Since the story has to be fiction, I juiced it up a bit.  My protagonist (I don’t use the term “heroine”, as I think it’s silly, unless she does something heroic) is from Pensacola, but has left home to do just what I did more than a decade ago.  She is LDS (as I was at the time, though I won’t make her religion central to the story; however, Mormonism is a very American religion), and that’s where the similarities between my story and her story end.  Her experience is quite a bit darker (I just can’t help myself) than mine was.

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I borrowed her (and one of the main two plots) from the novel I wrote (“The Fall and Rise of Alfred Bomber”) that she is a supporting character in.  Since it will be quite some time before “Alfred” is finished (meaning edited), I thought Karsen Wood (the name of my protagonist) may as well be doing me some good elsewhere.  I see this story as Karsen’s part-time gig, rather than her full-time career in “Alfred”.  I grew quite fond of her (as she is an extension of me), in addition to the fact that her story gave me something to build on other than a blank screen.

To Pleasantville…and Back

A few days ago, I watched “Pleasantville” for the first time.  My husband thought I’d like it because most of it was in black-and-white, and was set during the time period, which, according to a BuzzFeed quiz, I belong in.

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Yes, I love “I Love Lucy” (I rewatch the series every few years and am a “liker” of the Facebook fan page, “A Daily Dose of ‘I Love Lucy’; when I was younger, I always said if I ever had fraternal twins, I would name them Lucy and Ricky), I wear red lipstick (Mary Kay’s Downtown Brown, which looks red on me), saddle oxfords were my favorite shoes as a little girl, and the only pair of pants I own is the one pair I have to wear for work (dresses and skirts always outside of work); even my wedding dress (or suit) looked more like something my grandmother would have worn to the Justice of the Peace, and my wedding hat and veil (reminiscent of Jackie O)

The blushing bride

was an original from the sixties–an Etsy find.  My grandmother’s copper Jell-O molds (which I’ve spotted in old movies–always a thrill) adorn my kitchen wall; I even work at a retro-style diner.

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When I got an unexpected check in the mail, the first words that came to mind weren’t “Hot damn!”, but rather, “Hot dog!”  Yes, I watch lots of old movies (95% of the movies I own pre-date 1965, though I no longer buy movies, now that I have a DV-R).  ABBA is the most recent band I like.

I am what you would call a square, with rounded, perhaps lacy edges.

When I was eighteen, I saw a commercial with a placid woman standing in front of a lighthouse, advertising a free Book of Mormon.  The commercial appealed to me, and so I ordered a book online.  I had a choice between having the book sent to me via USPS, or I could have two Mormon missionaries deliver it to me personally.  I chose the latter (pun intended).

I chose that option because I wanted to see what Mormons look like.  Of course, the first thing that came to mind was polygamy.  I think it was more curiosity than anything that prompted me to order the book, and what a life-changing whim that turned out to be.

I ended up becoming baptized, though when the missionaries mentioned tithing, and how it was required to be a member in good standing, I, remembering what my parents said about being beware of any church that asks for money, fell away.

Nine months or so passed, and I met a boy (at a political group at University) whose name was familiar from high school, though we’d never met.  He sort of dated/socialized me back into the Church, and by the time we broke up, I was fully converted.  I hadn’t fallen in love with him, but I’d fallen in love with the Church.  The Mormon lifestyle is like a throwback to the Fifties–I felt like I’d finally found the Church that I was made for.

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Living in the South, I’d churched around quite a bit.  (Being a “Jesus Freak” was big in the eighties and early nineties, though I never referred to myself as one.  Just not my personality to wear my religion on my sleeve).  Pensacola, Florida, is like a Christianity smorgasbord–if you’re a Christian, there is a church for you somewhere here.  Never before had I felt so welcomed.  It felt good, and it felt right, and it was, for me, at that time.

The Church was a wonderful experience, till I went to Utah, and lost my testimony in Joseph Smith.  The father of the boy I had dated had admonished me not to go, and, to the best of my recollection, he’d told me if I went, they’d lose me, and they did.  I can never regret going, though, for because of my leaving, I am the person I am today.

I went through a period of bitterness towards the Church, and then I found my way back as not an ex-Mormon (which has an negative connotation), but as a former Mormon.  My Mormon friends, whom I’d avoided for so long, did not judge me, or stop being my friend (they are still some of my closest friends), even though they know I will never come back.

So, to segue back to my opening, I watched “Pleasantville”–a film which I believe some parts are open to interpretation (sort of like the Bible).  The townspeople who live a moral lifestyle are shown as being bland and colorless, while the ones who engage in sin become vibrant and full of life.  I don’t look back and see my life as a Mormon that way.  Being a member of the Church did not stifle my creativity, but enhance it.  Granted, some of the stuff I write now, they would not approve of, but my experience as a Mormon helped me tap into a spiritual wellspring (and bring me closer to God) that no other Church had ever been able to do.

The boy Reese Witherspoon has sex with sees a rose in color for the first time because he fell in love, but Reese doesn’t see color after their trysts because she doesn’t feel the same–she doesn’t see color until she reads a classic book for pleasure.  Tobey Maguire becomes colorized when he saves his mother from being molested by a group of young boys (after the man she is having an affair with, who supposedly loves her and she him, paints a nude picture of her on his malt/soda shoppe’s window).  Jeff Daniels doesn’t see color until he begins to pursue his passion of painting, and the woman who plays Tobey and Reese’s mother doesn’t turn colorful (or see in color) until she pleasures herself sexually/has an affair with Jeff Daniels (one of the points of the film I had a problem with–I’d have preferred her to become colorized when she and her husband had rediscovered each other on a deeper level).  Though Reese putting aside her whorish ways was a positive note to end on, Don Knotts (who will always live on as Barney Fife) using the Lord’s name in vain, was a sour one to begin with.

I know there is much, much more to the movie than what I’ve discussed, but those particular parts of the film I related to.

Though I don’t agree with everything the movie says (or tries to say), I do think it’s worth watching at least once.  A great film it isn’t (in my opinion), but it makes you think, which is more than most movies accomplish.

I do agree that a false nostalgia exists, even for those who never lived during that time.  (Just as one can romanticize the Amish lifestyle, though they would never want to live it.)  Though I love so many things about that era, I belong in this present time.  I love the technology and medical advances that exist now, and all the opportunities for women to have fulfilling careers.  I’m glad it isn’t just chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.  I love more things that exist now, but didn’t then, than I could possibly enumerate.

“Pleasantville” is a state of mind, not of place and time.  Tobey and Reese seeing “the man behind the curtain”, so to speak, ripped off the beautiful façade that television presented.  I love “Leave it to Beaver”, knowing that things weren’t exactly like that, but rather a representation of all the good things that were.

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A “nice” rejection letter

My rejection letter from “The Kid’s Ark” for my story, “Little Addie Brown Eyes”:

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Dear Sarah,.

Hello! Thank you so much for your submission to the Kids’ Ark’s theme “One of a Kind.” Your story was great and quite creative. Unfortunately, we simply didn’t have enough space to use it. Thank you again for submitting it and we hope to see more from you for future themes.
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Blessings over you and your work for His Kingdom!
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Joy Mygrants
Story Editor
The Kids’ Ark
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Theme Description: One of a Kind
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The Bible says in Isaiah 49: 1 “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name”. Each zebra has a set of stripes that is an individual as a set of fingerprints. Stripes on the front of all zebra’s form a triangle pattern, but no two zebra’s are alike. Scientist think that zebra’s may even be able to identify each other by their stripes.
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We are looking for stories that will tell how the Lord made each of us unique. Also, that God does not make mistakes. The Lord has an assignment for every person that is born. We need to pray, study the Bible and ask Jesus what we are to do for him while on this earth.

Is It a Bad Thing to Want to Give Our Kids a Magical Childhood?

A Magical Childhood

Last week, a blog post went viral about why parents should stop trying to give their kids a magical childhood. 

One of my friends shared it on her Facebook wall and yesterday a speaker at a sustainability conference even recommended it, saying that parents today spend too much time “on those things like Pinterest” and “working so hard to make their children’s live magical.”

“They’re just making their own lives harder,” she scoffed, “trying to make everything perfect.”

Then she said it’s because we mothers are addicted to stress.

Yes, it turns out we secretly like stress and so the quest to make childhood fun is some deep, psychological quest to make ourselves unhappy.

Or something like that.  I had a really hard time understanding the logic in any of it.

These people seem to completely miss the point about what makes a childhood magical, and why some of us…

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Query letter to Harlequin Romance

I’ve poked a little fun at Harlequin romances, but they SELL!  I wrote “Regina Fair” specifically for the market after my mom told me they read every manuscript they receive.  Janet Dailey, the most successful female author ever, started her career by writing for Harlequin.

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My completed novel, “Regina Fair”, intended for the Harlequin Romance (Cherish and Riva) Line, is a light romance that deals with a serious subject: the decision to not have children.

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Regina Morrow is a twenty-eight-year-old woman whose boyfriend dumped her several years ago because of her desire to be childfree.

Forty-one-year-old widower Rick George (whom Regina has loved from a distance for five years), is her boss, and fraternization is forbidden. It isn’t until Rick’s grown daughter, Cassie, and Regina’s kid sister, Juliet, plot to play matchmaker, that Rick and Regina are forced to acknowledge their mutual attraction.

As Regina becomes acquainted with some of Rick’s old girlfriends along the way, finding out why it didn’t work out between them, she begins to suspect that she will be just another ex-girlfriend.

The thing is, Rick has always wanted more children, so, fearing he would choose to marry her, hoping she will change (and resenting her if she doesn’t), Regina decides to break it off with him.

Months pass, and Rick realizes he must convince Regina that she is all he wants. Though he’d wanted more children with his wife, that was a long time ago, and what he’s wanted in life has changed.

It’s up to him to convince Regina that she is enough for him, and he does, in a way that surprises even himself.

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I am thirty-two years old, but have been writing since I was old enough to write. Cutting up every paper in the house was my creative outlet before then.

I enjoy writing in many different styles and genres, from light romance to Southern Gothic horror to nursery rhymes. I am currently working on the second book to “Regina Fair”, which will be part of a series set in the small town of Princeton, Florida.

Though I’m from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, I’ve lived in Pensacola, Florida, almost all my life, which has served as the inspiration for Princeton.

Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Warm regards,

Sarah Lea Richards