The Year in Review: 2018

auldlangsyne

Twenty-eighteen was the best of years and the worst of years.

This year was my first Christmas without my mom.  I think of all the conversations that we never had about all the good things that were happening in my life, all the stories of mine she had yet to read, all the books and meals and time with Hannah we had yet to share, all the Christmas shows we had yet to binge-watch together (like the “Bob’s Jelly Doughnut” episode of “Wings”)…

But I know she was there–I just wish I could see her being there.

*

This December, I graduated with my A.A. and my A.S. and got a full-time job I enjoy at the college just before graduation–a job where my creativity is not only appreciated but encouraged.

The A.A. was what I wanted, the A.S., what I felt I was supposed to want.  I will go for my Bachelor’s in Business (with a concentration in Graphic Design) in the fall at the college that has been like my second home (as well as my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing at The University of West Florida when I can swing it).

It was my work on The Corsair designing recruitment ads, as well as making Shutterfly books for Christmas gifts, that led me to seeking a degree in the graphic arts.  (Besides, I can also use whatever I learn to make this blog better.)

My “passion for the college” was what got me the job (my supervisor actually said I had this thing called a “skill set”–something no one has ever said to me before), and it did not go unnoticed by me when I went in for my first day of work and saw a few or more copies of the newspaper scattered, opened to my farewell letter: http://ecorsair.com/letter-from-the-editor-in-chief/

How easy it is to have passion for something that has given me so much:  friendships, scholarships, a quality education, and numerous opportunities to become a better writer (and not always with a grade attached).

I put everything I have into everything I do.  There’s a quote by Mark Cuban I came across once–“Work like there is someone working twenty-four hours a day to take it all away from you”–and maybe that’s why I am the way I am.  I almost lost nearly everything or had it taken away, and the thought of that happening again terrifies me so much, I am hyper-vigilant about being the absolute best at everything I do (except for maybe astronomy or statistics), but it’s also more than that:  I care.

I don’t half-ass things (though the amateur lexicographer in me wonders if the opposite would be “whole-ass”?).  I don’t even read my own work once it’s been published–I just sort of glance over it, afraid I will find a mistake, only to obsess over it. 

*

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I accepted an invitation to a church where we could have a fresh start. There was a woman pastor–something that used to seem strange to me, but not anymore.

That is not a change in values but in perception.

*

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions (I prefer to look back and note my accomplishments); however, I’m always making To-Do Lists (as well as goal lists, be they weekly, monthly, or lifetime) because if I didn’t, I’d simply forget it all.

Because this year has been crazy, and I’ve been spending so much time finishing college while applying for jobs and trying to make a living, I haven’t been taking care of myself or spending as much time with my family as I should.  I’ve still done a lot of writing, but more for this blog and the newspaper than submitting to magazines.

It’s time to read more, sleep more, and even play more (like with dumbbells, if not barbells).  Managing my stress is going to be a large part of my New Year’s health goals, for once I do that, my mind will be clearer to focus on other areas of wellness.  

I drained my batteries dry this past year but was able to sally forth because the light at the end of the tunnel just kept getting bigger.  I feel like I have passed through to the other side, only to find that there are more tunnels.  My community college experience opened those doors; that’s why I never saw them before.

But for now, I am content to just stand in the light.

241 (1).JPG

Advertisements

2016, A Year in Review (and a few resolutions, too)

new-year-1904679_960_720.jpg

Twenty-sixteen was my best year yet when it came to writing (not so much the number of words, but the number of finished projects, publications, and contest wins).  I’ve decided my minimum is 300 words (Stephen King’s is 2000, but unfortunately, I’m unable to write for a living yet).  If I want to go over that, that’s wonderful, but the overage won’t count towards the next day.  I have to keep myself accountable.

I have several New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Get more organized.  This will waste less of my precious time.  I have spent part of the last day of the year clearing out my favorites, deleting e-mails, organizing my USB drive, transcribing my notes that are scattered from pillar to post, polishing the drafts in my blog account so I can either “plush or slush” them (this I’ve done over the last week, explaining my prolific posting).
  2. Do more, and by that, I mean trying different things (especially physical ones, liking biking, climbing, etc).
  3. Plan meals so that I never have to wake up needing to cook.  (I hate cooking in the morning; I’d rather have fish for breakfast…and I have.)
  4. Write something using dictionary.com’s “word of the day”.  This will help me remember it far more than simply memorizing it.
  5. Don’t start writing any more books until I’ve finished (and edited) the ones I’ve written.  (This will take all year.)
  6. Keep coupons in the car or purse.  I am just too forgetful.
  7. Don’t respond to outlandish status updates on Facebook or you will be expected to post one.  I’m sorry, but these really piss me off.  Just like the ones that say “If you love Jesus, you’ll share this”, and others of its ilk.
  8. Include, in my daily to-do list, all the activities I want to do with my daughter.  This includes not just reading stories at bedtime, but other books during the daytime.
  9. Make at least one video of my daughter a week.  I’ve slacked on this as it’s harder to edit videos (or take good ones) than it is a photograph.
  10. Wear less black and gray (yes, it’s slimming).
  11. Do different things with my hair (it’s one of our greatest accessories).  I dug out my old crimper (I’m an eighties girl) and got many compliments on my new look; got a snood for Christmas and if you don’t know what that is, look it up.
  12. Work on Christmas gifts all year long (which would include trying a new recipe weekly).

And that’s just the beginning, but it’s a start.

~

One of my proudest moments this year was winning first place (in the same contest I placed in second twice last year) for my story, “The Punch Drunk Potluck”, about what happens when a saucy girl brings pot brownies to a Mormon Church party and spikes the punch.  Let’s just say everyone’s spirits were lifted.  (I will post the link when the online newspaper editor has it up.)

first-place-short-story

I was also published in Bella Grace magazine, for which I wrote a narrative poem about the magic of childhood.  The magazine seemed tailored just for me, with its almost “Pollyannish” take on life (Pollyanna being one of my favorite movies).

I also got published in the anthology below.  This site, http://writingcareer.com/, has been a great help to me in finding places to submit.

I wrote for the student newspaper this fall semester, am writing still for a parenting blog (https://getconnectdad.com/?s=sarah+richards&lang=en), and help write and design the newsletter for a local veteran’s organization.

As far as my personal writing goals, I got on a blogging schedule, where I only have to create new content once a week (the Writer’s Digest Wednesday Prompt); for the months of April and November, I successfully produced a poem a day.  My Monday and Friday posts come from what I’ve tweeted out, which I artfully compile.  I’ve started a Facebook page with writing tips and truths (https://www.facebook.com/sarahleastories/), also of which will someday end up on this blog (waste absolutely nothing you write).  All of these things have helped me become a better, and more confident and prolific writer (and it all counts towards my daily 300).

Though I’ve enjoyed this year immensely, I am never sorry to see it go, because every year just gets better and better:  I learn more, I become more.

Cheers!

Sarah Lea

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #377; Theme: An Unsuitable (blank) for (blank)

eve-1071356_960_720.jpg

An Unsuitable Cure for The Sickness That Is Your Life

It’s investing in yourself,
rather than next year’s Christmas.
It’s making daily goals,
rather than New Year’s resolutions.
It’s sticky note reminders
on your fridge,
your bathroom mirror.
It’s enjoying the moment,
not living for the next.
It’s eating less,
and drinking more (water).
It’s not trying to like foods
you never will.
It’s exercising for the endorphins
alone.

It’s making more out of less,
less out of the not-so-best.
It’s creating more,
consuming less.
It’s replacing T-O-Y-S
with T-I-M-E.
It’s making time,
not finding it.

It’s about living,
not just living to record.
It’s beating your own record,
not someone else’s.
It’s making a life,
while making a living.
It’s working for a purpose,
not just a paycheck.
It’s showing up,
and showing up ten minutes early.
It’s beating your own drum,
and marching to it in a way
that other people want to follow you.
It’s not redefining yourself,
but realizing yourself.
It’s losing yourself in the service of others,
only to find yourself.

It’s not worrying,
but being productive while not worrying,
till the time comes when you should worry,
or realized you never had to at all.
It’s rewriting our internal dialogue,
so that when someone asks
who the hell do you think you are,
you will know the answer.
It’s using sarcasm and wit properly.
It’s finding the truth in fiction,
the poetry in the everyday.
It’s spirituality with morality,
not religion with rules.
It’s believing in yourself,
but more in the One who
created you.
It’s not about believing in others,
but in the One who sent them.
It’s knowing that prayer always comforts
the one who prays,
if not the prayed for.
It’s not love without limits,
but limitless love.
It’s belief in life everlasting.

It’s loving those you are with;
it’s talking to those around you.
It’s putting the cashier,
the bagger,
the clerk,
before the call,
before the text.
You will miss out on less.
It’s being a friend,
but not without reciprocity
of contact.
It’s being careful
with confidences.
It’s knowing if your spouse
asked you again,
the answer would be the same.

It’s using stress as fuel,
not as a furnace,
and it’s never,
ever
ending it,
but sometimes
it can be
simply
letting it end.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-377

10 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

typewriter-2563457_960_720

1. Rather than trying to submit to everything, read and study certain publications that interest you and write for them.  If you want to submit a book to a publisher, study what the publisher publishes, and that should give you a fairly good idea if your work will be a good fit for them.

2. Blog at least twice a week.  (I’ve found that posting my Writer’s Digest Wednesday prompts really helps me keep this goal.)

3. Try to submit as often as you write.

4. Seek to entertain others, rather than sell yourself.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve not followed someone back on Twitter because every tweet is about their book.

5. Write at least 500 words (committed) 700 (uncommitted) words a day.  If you can do more, great, but I found the 1667 daily words required for NaNoWriMo overwhelming.

6. If you have an unfinished novel, finish it.

7. Remember the Dictionary.com Word of the Day by using it in a well-written sentence.

8. If one of your novels isn’t picked up by an agent or publisher by (insert time frame), make a commitment to self-publish.  It can work for you:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/the-martian/andy-weir-author-interview/

9. Manage your time like you would manage your money.  Allocate not only the amount of time, but when to use it for certain activities.  (It’s always too early in the morning for social media).

10. And this is the most important:  make time for people, for other activities, so that you will have a good life—a life worth writing about.

Have fun with language. Make a list!

book-1012275_960_720

Let me start by saying I am not a fan of Shakespeare.  I have always found reading his work boring.  Maybe there isn’t enough yolk in my head to like what I have been told is one of the greats.  However, I do think it is possible to appreciate something without liking it.  Shakespeare did invent many new words, many of which I like, so, I came up with a few myself.

1.snowblowhard–one who chooses to live in the South, but complains about everything Southern (like the weather, for instance).  A friend of a friend (on Facebook)  referred to Florida Christmases as fake because we didn’t have snow.

2.raggedbagger–a woman who carries a designer handbag while dressed like a bum.

3.paddyfibber–one who claims to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

4.stackie (see shelfie:  http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=shelfie)–a stack, or tower, of books that have not yet made it to a shelf.

5.crucifixation (I can’t take credit for this one, as my brother made it up)–one who is fascinated by the macabre elements of religion (exorcism, speaking in tongues, etc.)

6.manicurist–I know this is already a word, but I think it should be brought back.  Nail technician?  Please!

7.multi-tabber (liken to multi-tasker)–one who has at least several tabs open on their Internet at one time.  This is me.

8.mom joke (a.k.a. lame joke)–if you knew my mom, you’d understand.  An example of a mom joke:  Q:  What did the one casket say to the other casket that had a cold?  A:  Is that you coffin?

9.femoir–a fake memoir.  See:  http://listverse.com/2010/03/06/top-10-infamous-fake-memoirs/

10.fictionary–this list!

~

Maybe one of the amendments to my list of New Year’s Resolutions should be to learn at least one new word a day, which would be an accomplishment for me, as I tend to have the memory of a goldfish.

One of the reasons I enjoyed the Shopaholic series so much was because it was set in England, and I learned some British words/slang.  Words matter.  One of my favorite English phrases is “cheesed off” (which means disgusted or fed up).

When I lived in Montana, they used the word “spendy” to mean pricey.  In Southeast Missouri, where my family is from, they use the term “whopper-jawed” (I think that means jacked-up); my parents still say “warsh” instead of “wash”.

Local lingo adds an authentic flavor to a piece of writing.  A setting (just like a time period) is an important character, even if the place is made up.  I’d rather see an author make up a setting than do injustice to a real one.  “Peyton Place” was made up, but felt very real (I’m referring to the movie and not the book).  Of course, it was based on a real place, like Sinclair Lewis’s Zenith, Missouri, in “Elmer Gantry” (another example where the movie was far better than the book).  Even Oz felt like a real place–just not on Earth.

One of the many reasons I love Christian author Linda Hall’s books is because almost all of them are set in Maine–a place I’d love to visit someday.  I also tend to gravitate towards books set in New Orleans (ironically, a place I have no desire to visit); the only reason I read any of Elin Hilderbrand’s novels was because most of them were set on Nantucket Island (where I’ve wanted to visit ever since I became a fan of the “Wings” TV series).  Dorothea Benton Frank’s “Sullivan’s Island” has made me want to go there, too.  However, the last two authors only made me want to visit the settings of their novels, not read another one.

Setting is great, but character still matters.

Nutritional Standard of Living

tomatoes-1580273_960_720

So, I’ve decided to go back over my New Year’s resolutions.  I am excelling with the writing business, but not so much with the weight.  Everything else, I’m doing fair to middling (as the saying goes) on.  I realize this is okay, because I am going to reevaluate myself at the end of every month.

I could just focus on one resolution per month, but no.  I’m ready to make the weight thing happen.  Now that I’ll be working at a natural food co-op (several years ago, when I did the bulk of my shopping there, I was seventy pounds lighter), I’ll be surrounded by healthier (or less bad) options.  The free membership and employee discount will make it all that much easier.  I am very much looking forward to starting this lifestyle.

I believe our surroundings play a huge role in many of the choices we make, though I am not using that as an excuse.  When I worked at the drugstore, I was always tantalized by all the new junk food products that would come out (stay away from Girl Scout Samoa candy bars).  The generous employee discount combined with the sale prices made the sweet temptations all that much greater to resist.  Half the battle is not bringing it home; the other half is not working at a place where we were rewarded for pushing candy on people (where “Thank you and be well” had to be said to every customer, even if they were buying a pack of smokes; that would just come across as sarcastic to me).

My job at the drugstore made me sick, not well.  I worked the overnight shift for over a year.  Eighty hours in eight days, then six days off.  I did that right up to my third trimester, until I couldn’t anymore.  I had only refrained from requesting days because I knew once I changed over, I would have to deal with the brass and I’d be more pressured to say “Welcome to Walgreens” to every customer that came in the door and ask every customer we checked out to buy a suggestive sale item or donate one to the USO (even if they came in everyday and everyday, they said no).  Here is a cute little story I wrote about my time there:  http://writeonpensacola.wordpress.com/category/sarah-hannan/

The stress of it wasn’t worth what I was getting paid, and “I can do better” became my new mantra.  I knew if I just applied myself, I could bust out of retail jail.  I haven’t yet, but I do see an end to my tenure in this line of work.  I’ll feel more assured once I get back in school, but at least I’ll be working in an environment in which I have a strong interest in the product and/or service, and where the bosses seem easygoing and fair.

I believe I’ll actually learn something worthwhile.  I haven’t learned anything worthwhile in a job so long, if ever.  I want to acquire mad skills.  I want a job in which the description requires me to use my mind and talents, not just be a yes person.  My new boss told me he didn’t like yes people–he said it might get you ahead in the short-term, but not the long term.  He also said he knew we were there because we needed money.  I won’t have to suck up or pretend with him that I want to make a career in the company.  When I start working there, if I stay for more than the money, fine, but right now, I’m there to do a job.  That’s all they expect.  Such a refreshing change from working for a corporation.  I just want to be able to be myself.

I look forward to this new chapter of my life.  I look forward to elevating my nutritional standard of living.  I no longer see this culinary journey I am about to embark on as limiting myself, but rather opening myself up to new things.  I want to be strong and healthy and energetic for me, first and foremost (everything we want, we have to want it for ourselves first), but also for my daughter.  I want to be able to run and jump and play with her in the park.  I want to have the energy to put verve into our other time together, as well.  I want to be able to teach her how to prepare wholesome foods from scratch.  I want to make the stories I read to her come alive.  I want to be all I can be for her.

I went swimming tonight, and got winded quicker.  I’ve been trying outrun (or outswim) my fork (it’s not how much I eat, but what) for months, and one can only swim so much.  It’s like you can only cut back (budget) so much before you realize you just have to make more money.

When I was seventy pounds lighter, I never exercised, but was strict with my diet.  I drank only water, for one thing.  I’m still working my way up on those eight glasses a day.  I’ve realized if you drink other things, it just takes the place of some of the water you drink.  A Mexican Coca Cola and a chocolate something (be it a baked good or candy bar) has been my beer and cigarette for a long time.  I’m not ready to go cold turkey, but I am ready to cut back so much, I get detox headaches.

Oh, well, that’s what coffee is for.

New Year’s Revolutions

185376_465378253496057_30088749_n

I say revolutions because that’s what it’s going to take to get me to stick to my resolutions.  I am a lover of lists, so I will simply list the goals I will achieve in the year 2014.

1.  Lose weight (isn’t this everyone’s?):  I won’t say how much, as that would give me away.  I’ll post the Before picture when I have the After.  I will drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, no matter how much it makes me tinkle.  Of course, that leaves no room for Mexican Coca Cola, Chick-Fil-A sweet tea, and mocha iced coffee, but maybe that’s the second point of drinking so much water.

2.  Submit at least one piece of writing a week:  That is very doable, as I’m focusing on writing shorter things now (while still working on finishing my novel when I feel like it).

3.  Staying organized, keeping the house picked up and clean:  Now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, there is no excuse.  Making myself a cleaning schedule helped tremendously.  There is something about a to-do list in print that makes it easier to stick to.  Never underestimate the satisfaction of being able to physically cross something off.

4.  Find financial peace:  That includes paying off all credit card debt and having a savings account.

5.  Try one new recipe a week.

6.  Sing at least five songs (learning new ones all the while because I’m getting tired of the ones I’m singing to her now) and read at least five nursery rhymes to Hannah a day.

7.  Plan at least one, non-television watching date night a month.

As I do believe seven is considered a lucky number, I will end it here.

P.S.  I wrote this before midnight, Central time, as the date of my post says otherwise.