Summer in Spring: Love in the Afternoon

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Though I love the holiday season with all its glitz and glam, it is the warm season I long for, with its relaxing vibes.  I like to say eighty-two degrees with a breeze is my ideal.  I spend at least three hours a day outside during the summer.  If I could, I would live in a bikini, cover-up, and flip-flops year round, with my hair thrown up into a messy bun (the other kind makes me look bald).  I like not having to warm up the car, or bundle up before going outside, or having to worry about blow-drying my hair after a shower.  Summer is low-maintenance.

I guess you could say I have spring break fever.  I spent the late afternoon sunbathing on a sand-colored fleece blanket on our weedy grass, my neighbor playing “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack on the radio.  The late afternoon sun waned as I waxed philosophical, thinking about life’s unanswered questions (like “What exactly is a peanut-butter haircut?” and “If the whole world was naked, would we be skinnier?”), while my  three-year-old daughter fed sticks and leaves to the A/C fan unit.  It was the ultimate relaxation, saturated with sunshine that turned my creamy skin into brown butter.

So often, I’m doing, and I forget to just be.  I didn’t even bring a book to the blanket.  I don’t need constant stimulation.  I was letting myself have some quiet time and my daughter, some unstructured play.  I delight in the way she loves the outdoors, though she still turns into a glassy-eyed zombie with a hearing problem when she plays with our old cell phones.

I suppose that’s why I love the warm so much, because when it’s cold, I don’t spend any more time outside than I have to.  Even bundled up, it’s not comfortable to be wearing so many layers, and fun in the water is out of the question.  I love the season of chocolate bars melting before you get to the car, of ceiling fans cutting through our thick, humid air, and stroller walks at twilight, the smell of meat grilling on the back porch.  As I walk through our neighborhood and pass each house with a lighted window, I think of them as their own separate universes–our neighborhood a solar system.  It’s like walking in space.

While I walk (today, it was while I sprawled), I thought about a butterscotch milkshake I had once.  It was at Spencer’s Drive-In in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, but the place is just a memory now.

 

When my daughter and I went back inside, I take a cooler shower than usual.  When I dry off, the smell of bleach from my white towel makes my nostrils smart.  (Bleaching whites are part of my spring cleaning routine.) My face feels deliciously tight, and I am ready to make my kitchen cabinet casserole (what I call spring cleaning the fridge) while my daughter, freshly-bathed and smelling of lavender and innocence, jumps on my grandmother’s love seat with the cushions out.

All is calm, all is right, until she sneezes, and I am running from the next room, scrambling around to find a wipe while begging her not to touch “it.”

 

A Time to Share: Reflections on one stop of my writing journey

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Being a guest blogger for https://getconnectdad.com/ has been a wonderful experience.  I was intrigued by the “52 Traits” we want to instill in our children; writing about them in poetic form has helped me explore such abstracts on a deeper level:  https://sarahleastories.com/get-connected-dad-my-contributions/

I’m a natural born storyteller, and I’ve found that my poems tend to be narratives with strategically-placed line breaks.  With the exception of children’s nursery rhymes, I find myself veering away from rhyme.  I like to say “metaphor is the new rhyme.”

I’ve finally become comfortable sharing my poetry in front of an audience.  My life motto has become “Aw, what the hell?”  I’ve always regretted the times I could’ve read and didn’t, but never the times I did, even if it didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked.

For example, one of my English professors told our class that my short story, “The Punch Drunk Potluck” (about what happens when a prospective member of the Church spikes the punch and brings pot brownies) was supposed to be humorous.  I was thinking, Oh, my god, don’t tell them that.  If they don’t laugh, I’ll be so embarrassed.

Even though “Punch” won first place in the college’s annual literary contest, they didn’t laugh.  That said, I was a bit uncomfortable (I’m sure I was breaking out in hives) during the reading (it was, after all, a super silly story), but I did it, and afterwards, a few people came up to me and told me how great it was.  (People may not always laugh, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t think it was funny; I don’t laugh at every joke I hear on “Cheers”).  One even asked for a copy.

The girl who asked for a copy used to be a member of the FLDS Church (her father had four wives), and so she understood all the nuances of my piece.  I’ve found that of all the different kinds of writing I do, I enjoy writing my humor pieces the most.  Even though I wouldn’t consider myself a funny gal (more just witty), I keep in mind that Lucille Ball was very serious in real life.

Out of the nine readers at the poetry reading at my college, I was the only one who read anything humorous  (“Hanging from the Family Tree”).  I like to say “a little subtlety and a little levity goes a long way.”  When offered the chance to read again, I read a serious poem (one I would describe as “hauntingly beautiful”), but everyone loved the first.  My inspiration for that one?  My family:  The gift that keeps on regifting.  (I was even asked to perform an encore the next day at the office.)

I’d worn my white snood; I decided that would be my schtick.  (When I used to color my hair red, I thought “The Lady in Red” had a nice ring to it; I would wear all red, down to my shoes.)  Since I had to stop coloring my hair when I was expecting (only to find I had gray hairs), I had to ditch that notion, at least during my child-bearing years.  (And have you ever tried finding red shoes?  Especially in a size 10?)

That night of the reading (taking a piece of advice one of the other students in my poetry class gave), I opened with a joke I’d overheard in the English department:

Q:  What does the Secret Service shout when they see a bullet coming towards the President?

A:  Donald!  Duck!

That icebreaker helped dispel almost all my self-consciousness.

My advice:  Don’t overthink it.  Just go for it.

 

 

#Micropoetry Monday: Realms of Motherhood

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No two snowflakes are alike,
& she melted in her mother’s arms—
not the designer label she had hoped for,
but the special label
that made her love her all the more.

Her orderly little house had been turned
upside down,
her life inside out,
& she fought to keep up with the tot
she prayed would one day outrun her.

Homeschooling would protect her
from the products of ill conception,
but she could not teach her everything,
& so she had to lead her to the ones who could.

I loved the child that was a part of me,
& equally part of the one I loved.
I loved the child I knew yesterday & today,
but would not be forever.

She is just what I would have chosen,
& yet she was created without conscious thought
the product of an autonomic, biological response
to an act of love,
ignited by whiskey.

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

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Their culture was Norman Rockwell-ish,
their language, without offense,
their borders open to all who would
obey their commandments.

The genders were distinct—
from heads of home to hearts of home.
They were black-&-white about such things,
the world, 50 shades of grey.

The Mormons saw the family
as the foundation for salvation, whereas
I saw families as something invented
for the orderliness of civilization.

The Separation of Men & Women
was like the Separation of Church & State,
of Law & Medicine,
for in separateness,
there was no Equality.

Men were home teachers,
women, visiting teachers,
& every member was a missionary.
In Catholicism, you went to Church
& then you went home.

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

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Their culture was foreign to me—
with their big families, their big love,
their absolutes over theories.
They were so damn sure of themselves.

I’d never know just when it was
Elder Roberts fell in love with me,
but I’d know the exact second,
like a knot on a chain,
when it was he fell out.

I saw in Elder Roberts a longing
that mirrored my own.
However, the love I had for David,
would lose me the love I had sown.

Over gumbo & greens,
we broke cornbread with the elders.
They were our friends—
one would become family,
the other, an enemy.

A Catholic nun was seen as the highest thing
a woman could achieve,
in Mormonism, a stay-at-home mom.
Both required submission under a man.

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

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David was like a real father,
Mother, an adopted parent,
& yet, I never tried to seek out
another mother,
Heavenly or otherwise,
for he was all.

Though Mother would marry David in the temple,
it would be for time only;
Patrick would get all eternity–
all because he had come first.

For years, I’d seen my mother as selflessly devoted to my father,
my father selfishly clinging to my mother from beyond the grave.

David had raised me from the time I was 5,
but Mother had been watching me since birth-
waiting for what would be,
a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Whatever touched Mother’s life,
touched ours,
for so entwined were we,
it was impossible
to disentangle ourselves
from the binds
of Mormonism.

#Micropoetry Monday: Love Comes Darkly

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The curtains on the windows of their souls parted.
The bride didn’t run away with the groom,
but with the man who almost married them.

Her wedding had been a bright dot
on the timeline of her life,
her divorce a dark one,
the line connecting them turning clear,
for the ending blurred the happy memories.

He had the taste of love,
the smell of success,
the Midas touch,
until he saw & heard his past
catch up to him
in the form of a love-child
& back-child support.

He married her,
she converted,
& only because of her newfound faith,
was she willing stay,
when she otherwise
would have left.

If she wanted to keep anything,
she would have to keep it away from him.