Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #423: Little (Blank)

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Heard of chocolate milk moustaches? Well, this is a goatee.

Little Things (That Make Life Good)

Chocolate milk moustaches & the sound a straw makes when you’ve sucked it good to the last drop

The chocolate nugget at the bottom of a Drumstick sundae cone

Waking up to the aromas of bacon & coffee

Paper newspapers & excursions to the bookstore

The smell of matches after they’ve been struck, birthday candles after they’ve been blown out

The experience of ripping paper off a present rather than pulling it out of a bag

Front doors with glass that let the light in, open windows on a nice day

Non-committal sweaters (i.e. not pullovers) & clothes without zippers

The non-committal semicolon, the amazing em-dash, & the cute little ampersand

Clever epitaphs & witty puns

2 spaces after a period

Cursive writing & typewriter font

Whiteboards for practical use, chalkboards for decorative

Long, luxurious lavender bubble baths

Lady Stetson & Prell

Non-sitting cardio machines

Roller skates you can strap to your existing shoe

Real bicycles that take you places

Mint-green Mini Coopers

TV shows that aren’t set in Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles

Bright lipstick with shiny lip gloss

Clothes that don’t have to be dry-cleaned

No-sew sewing projects

Truffle making

Retro kitchens with modern appliances

Willow Tree nativity scenes & Precious Moments snow globes

The Hallmark Yule log with the dog & cat in front of the fireplace, classic Christmas music playing in the background

I Love Lucy–an allegory of the American Dream

Humor, because life is serious

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-423

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On Journalism: My College Writing Experience

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“The Bluffer” staff (Poplar Bluff High’s high school newspaper). My dad is the one with the glasses in the back of the room.

There’ve been times I’ve wondered if I’d gotten on the newspaper staff in high school (rather than the yearbook) if I would’ve decided to major in journalism (rather than the culinary arts, which was a colossal waste of time). I don’t even remember seeing our high school newspaper around, except once (for fifty cents or a quarter), and I thought, We have a newspaper?

Even though there was a permanence about the yearbook (encased in hardcover, like a coffee-table book), the staff meetings were just another class to me. What’s more, I don’t even have any of my old yearbooks. I’m a nostalgic, sentimental kind of girl, but not for my high school days.

Maybe it was because I was shy and didn’t have any school spirit (I always begged my dad to check me out of the pep rallies, because why should I cheer for a bunch of misogynistic athletes?). Though I was involved in the Art Club and “The M.O.B.” (Ministry of Believers), I often found myself feeling like I was stuck in hell for seven hours a day.

I remember writing stories for the yearbook, but I don’t remember what any of them were about. Because my creativity wasn’t nurtured or appreciated, I thought any writing career other than being a poet or novelist wasn’t for me.

My dad was the sports editor of the Poplar Bluff high school newspaper staff (see above photo) from the fall of 1968 to the spring of 1969. I asked him what it was like back then. He remembered the girls far outnumbered the boys, and that one of the girls was what they called a “morgue editor,” meaning she cut out articles and pasted them into a book. Then, for the Christmas issue, the whole paper was printed in red

Being the family historian, I record not only my memories, but the memories of others. I love to document, and newspaper article writing does just that. Through writing features, I record other people’s experiences, but in writing a humor column, I’d be documenting my own in a way that would resonate, or connect, with people.

A couple of days ago, I texted the Editor-in-Chief on The Corsair (our college newspaper) that the only way I’d ever become a journalist would be as a humor columnist, reason being that I’d never get accused of disseminating fake news. (Advice columnist would be second best, and I wouldn’t go all “Judge Judy on people. That is one rage-filled lady.)

Through my run (so far) of being on the paper staff, I’ve found what I not only love to write the most, but what I’m good at, too. (Books by Dave Barry or Erma Bombeck are next on my library list.)

Ernest Hemingway and Margaret Mitchell started off writing for newspapers—maybe writing for one of them (a newspaper) one day is in my future. (I’m trying greeting cards, as well, even though most English professors think they’re %@#$.)

Though I don’t love interviewing people (people are like a box of chocolates—some are Roman nougat, and some are orange cream, which are slightly less horrendous as peanut butter kisses), I enjoy talking to them, and have learned a lot from doing so, whether it be other opportunities or good life advice. I wouldn’t have met many of the people I have if it hadn’t been for interviewing them for The Corsair.

Though I’m not majoring in journalism (and you don’t have to, to write for a newspaper), my journalism experience has helped me become a better writer, for all writing experience is valuable experience. I’ve learned, through analyzing my blog statistics, that my non-fiction posts far outpace my fiction ones, which is why I’m going to pursue the technical writing program at University before the creative writing one.

But what I’ve learned the most is that every time I think I have it all figured out, I learn something new that changes the trajectory of my life. I guess that’s what makes life interesting.

~

For more articles on what I’ve learned through my journalism experience:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/tuning-up-volumehow-ive-fine-tuned-my-ear-editor-sarah-richards/?trackingId=OoPJ6YprK%2F93UtZ3XVQ3TQ%3D%3D

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/editing-my-way-through-collegeone-less-word-time-sarah-richards/?trackingId=1OTyfkzaGFdb%2FwMiSk95oQ%3D%3D

https://sarahleastories.com/2017/02/04/feature-story-ideas-for-a-college-newspaper/

https://sarahleastories.com/2017/10/27/journalism-101/

https://sarahleastories.com/2017/10/29/journalism-conference-notes-my-conclusion/

 

2017: My Year in Review

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(Inside cover of inweekly–one of Pensacola’s local magazines)

It was the best of years, it was the worst of years.  It was a time of trial, and a time of triumph over that trial.  It was a time of change, and a time of recording that change.  It was a time of deconstruction, a time of reconstruction.  It was a time of friendships lost, a time of friendships found.

It was bad luck and no luck at all.  It was false hope mixed with hopelessness.  It was a culmination of every right and wrong decision my husband and I had ever made.

*

Twenty-seventeen will always be the year my family and I lost our house (security), our car (independence), and a Precious Moments snow globe I’d had since before I married, which I’d kept close in an attempt to keep my daughter’s bedtime routine familiar.  I’d lugged it around for the same reason I lugged her ladybug light around–so that wherever she slept, if it was dark enough and she closed her eyes, it would be like she was back in her old room.

It would be like nothing had changed.

*

I must have foreseen our situation more than three years ago. Not the displacement, necessarily, but the constant financial struggle which bled into everything else, and almost destroyed my marriage.

This, this was why I had gone back to school at the age of thirty-two.

*

Through this experience, I found out who my fair-weather friends were, as well as my stormy-weather ones.

I also realized that my husband’s church family had become like-minded acquaintances, but I guess it’s like that with any family–you have to go to the reunions (i.e. services) every once in a while.

I’m very blessed that my family—all of whom had gone through a degree of what we had—were there for us.  Someday, I hope to be able to repay them tenfold, just as I want to repay the other people (including the pastor who married us and is now retired) and the entities and organizations who helped us, be it through time, taxes, or donations.

Though we’re estranged from what’s left of my husband’s family, my husband and I have made it past the worst. “For better or worse” was in my vows, and I believe the better is coming.

I couldn’t go on if I didn’t.

As it states in the Mormons’ Thirteenth Article of Faith (and I am only quoting part of it), “we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.”

During this time, I felt that everyone else had it all together, but it was towards the end of the semester that I realized I wasn’t the only one going through, for lack of better words, “really bad shit.”

Knowing this made me feel less alone.

*

Through the infighting and the angst of not knowing where we might be sleeping a week hence, through squatting in the Publix Wi-Fi area where we didn’t feel we had to buy anything and to avoid being stuck in that depressing shelter, through sneaking in to the hotel where my brother worked to eat dinner, I still managed to conquer the one class (or rather, the class that was a pre-cursor) to the class that I’d let keep me from finishing college the first time:  Intermediate Algebra.

I not only passed it, but aced it–all while my world fell apart during final exam week.

What others might have allowed to destroy them, I could not because my life wasn’t just my life anymore. I had a family, and I needed this degree to pull out of the quagmire that was poverty.

My “unhoused” (that sounds so much better than “homeless”) experience didn’t change who I was, but it changed my perspective.

When I see the homeless on the corner, I think, if only they had a family, or a family that cared. True, I don’t know their situation, but I do know we weren’t far from it.

I’m still a strong believer in self-sufficiency (for I am working hard, or rather, studying hard, towards that), but I also realize that to be against the very things that have helped me pull myself up would make me a hypocrite.

There is no shame (nor pride) in accepting help; it’s what you do with that help.

It’s why I chose to major in healthcare rather than English—I wanted to be a good steward of the gift I received. There’ve been times I was sure I’d chosen the wrong major, but I like to say it will be my healthcare degree that will pay for my creative writing degree (something I’ll be working on while I work in the medical field).

I’ve learned, albeit the hard way, that doing things in the right order is essential for success.  That’s why I didn’t choose to major in English first.

When I look at what little money my husband and I brought in, I realize that my family got our Christmas miracle early.

Because a Man fed 5000 people 2000 years ago, my family and I were taken care of, so that we could live to fight (or simply live) another day.

Christmas thoughts: What I learned from “Miracle on 34th Street”

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When I was a little girl, Miracle on 34th Street was one of my favorite Christmas movies.

My parents could never get me to believe in Santa Claus.  (I was very much like little Susan Walker that way.)

My mom told me (more than once), when I lamented about not having blond hair and blue eyes like all the other little girls wanted, that Natalie Wood (who played Susan in the movie) grew up to be one of the most beautiful women in the world, with her dark hair and brown eyes, like mine.

*

Not long before I became a mom, I was touched by the scene in which Kris Kringle asks Susan if her mother ever sang to her.  Susan says no–in that matter-of-fact way of hers–and I saw, in Kris’s merry eyes, how unfortunate that was.

Twas then I realized that I would always sing to my children.

*

When Susan blows off a game in which the other children in her apartment complex are pretending to be animals in a zoo, calling it silly, with Kris telling her it sounds like fun, I realized that fun is an essential part of childhood.

I was never much for pretending when I was a kid (I just drew my stories until I was old enough to write them), but I chose to nurture that in my child.

I chose, and am choosing still, to give my daughter that magical childhood, for there is time enough to be an adult with all the baggage that comes with it.

Maybe through writing my stories, I am pretending still.

*

Even though I never believed in Santa Claus (too many jerky kids got on the nice list), I fell in love with the idea of him, for I believe that we can all play Santa Claus–not to all the children of the world necessarily, but to our own, if no one else.

That Song!

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When I was a girl, every year, I’d have to listen to how much my mom hated what I called “the partridge in a pear tree song.”

I liked it because there was a certain sort of hilarity about the poor father of the bride-to-be’s house becoming a zoo with every passing day, the birds becoming shriller, the French hens becoming smellier, et cetera.

So, one Christmas, when I was a Brownie Girl Scout, I was excited to be part of the chorus, until I realized I was stuck with the stupid hens. I didn’t want to be something people ate–I wanted to be the beautiful turtle doves or the graceful ladies dancing, so I was a bit pissy about the whole thing, feeling that I’d been insulted.

Of course, it’s all so silly now, but back then, it was as important as earning the circle patch (rather than the triangle) for selling 100 boxes of cookies.

I’d thought about writing a “Suddern” version of the carol, but then, I just googled and found out Jeff Foxworthy had already done a redneck one.  So, I just based my version on what I would qualify as “filthy Santa gifts.”  (This, coming from the girl who regifted Maxi pads because she was into extreme couponing at the time.)

Even my mom might appreciate this one.

***

The 12 Days of Merry’s Hard Candy Christmas

On the 12th day of Christmas,
my not-so-true love gave to me:
12 orange creams re-melting,
11 gifts a-regifting,
10 gift certs expiring,
9 stockings un-stuffing,
8 fruitcakes a-turning,
7 cactuses a-dying,
6 socks un-mating,
5 tarnishing rings,
4 ornaments a-shattering,
3 ugly sweaters unraveling,
2 missionaries a-tracting,
& a Christmas letter from his new wife.

Writer’s Digest November Poem-a-Day 2017 Challenge #30. Theme: Back in the Day

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The Evolution of Movie Renting

Back in the day, when I wanted to rent a movie, I had to physically drive to Blockbuster and peruse the VHS synopses. Seemed like there were better movies then, but they had to be more selective with their shelf space than these streaming services, with their endless virtual space. Though I was always kind enough to rewind, I was often tardy.

Of course, my dad tried to do one better—he tried to rewind these suspicious-looking discs called DVDs when they first came out.

Today, it’s no longer an event to go to the video store, to write a letter to someone, to listen to a professor in person. It’s all done via a screen. Even buttons are becoming a thing of the past.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-day-30

Writer’s Digest November Poem-a-Day 2017 Challenge #29. Theme: Response

In response to my previous poem:  https://sarahleastories.com/2017/11/24/writers-digest-november-poem-a-day-2017-challenge-24-theme-how-ill-be-remembered/

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How I Will Remember Them

I will always remember my paternal grandmother as a woman who epitomized grit and femininity–all while being a stay-at-home mom. I will remember her for saying (about her son, my uncle Bill), “If you’re not grinning like a jackass, he thinks you’re mad.” I will remember her for the way she’d say, “Now Cher—Bran—Sarah,” finally getting to my name (Cher and Bran being my aunt Cheryll and Cousin Brandi).

I will always remember my parents as always being proud of me. To me, a parent’s pride is different than a husband’s—it’s personal, for you are a part of them. We worry away our childhoods trying to make our parents proud (even though they, in turn, often embarrass us). I will always remember how my mom worried, which made me feel smothered. Now, with a daughter of my own, I understand.

I will remember my brother as a gifted musician who should never have hid his talent under a bushel.

I will always remember my peers in high school as smaller than they seemed all those years ago. High school isn’t the real world, though we never figure that out until it’s a long ago memory.

I will remember my Mormon acquaintances as changeless—kind of Godlike. My life, in contrast, has looked like an erratic heartbeat, theirs, a flat line, marked only by their first (and only marriages) and the births of their children. I don’t think I’ll ever know a life like theirs, so structured in religion, so unstructured with so many children.

My first real boyfriend: You were proof that chemistry could thrive without love or friendship. You showed me that the right person isn’t just about how you feel about them, but how they make you feel about yourself.

My second boyfriend: You were a rebound romance, doomed to fail because you weren’t what I thought I wanted. Now I know you were so much more than I could have ever dreamed.

My third boyfriend: You showed me how passion that’s all-consuming can almost destroy a person.

My husband, you have been as patient with me as I have been with you. For better or worse, our marriage is what it is. Like God, you have been right there with me through the best and the worst; I am patiently waiting for the better. You haven’t given me the best, but you’ve helped me become my best.

Hannah, my only begotten thus far, you have been the sun, the moon, and the stars—every kind of Mormon Heaven, every degree of glory. But I realized not long after you were born that “I Love Lucy” did not prepare me for parenthood. There was no Mrs. Trumble at the ready and in this world, I could never turn you loose to play elsewhere. But I am better than what I was because of your very existence. I say, I love my family as I love myself, but you are the only one I love even more than that.

My husband’s family, I was such an idealistic bride, hoping we could be friends like my mom and dad and aunt and uncle were when I was a little girl, but I know now that will never happen. The only connection we have is that you happen to be related to my husband. That alone doesn’t make you related to me.

And my friends, well, you know who you are, even as I am still getting to know who I am.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-day-29