Writing prompt: The symbols of your life

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I wish I could take credit for this idea, but my Contemporary Literature professor last semester asked us to examine our life as a literary text–to search for symbols.

My name is Sarah Lea, which is symbolic of my love for baking, as well as a nod to my playful nature (when it comes to writing, anyway).  And though I’m not generally a fan of Urban Dictionary, I rather love the definition they attributed to my name:  https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Sarah-Lea

As for the things I carry, well, that always includes a tube of Revlon’s “Love is On” lipstick (symbolizing my love for anything red or retro), a pair of tweezers, and a flosser.  (There will never be a hair on my chinny-chin-chin.

In the pocket of my red purse (which my husband helped me win at a “Dirty Santa” party), I keep a USB drive, which represents my love for compact, but tangible things (verses saving everything to a mysterious “cloud”). It’s why I read physical books and not e-books. It’s why I write articles for the print version of The Corsair and not for the web (unless they ask me to or shove a story I wrote for the print edition online because they “ran out of room”).

For me, there is something more permanent and prestigious about print. It cannot be edited once it’s been printed (like an online article) and it looks so much better in a scrapbook.

A brand-new suitcase, now several years old, reveals that I never have enough money to travel, but that I hope to someday. The fact that it exists at all is optimistic, which I attribute to my Pollyannish nature. For now, the case is a storage space for my out-of-season (or “when I am skinny again”) clothes, which forecasts that a trip to Iceland or Australia (or Skinnyville) won’t be happening any time soon.

So analyze (or psychoanalyze) the symbols that make up the text that is your life.  You just might learn something new about yourself.

Poetry in Motion Pictures

In Pollyanna,
I saw myself as the Sunday school girl
who focused on the “Happy Texts,”
because it helped me “keep the faith.”

In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,
I saw myself in Francie Nolan—
that lies weren’t lies if they were written as stories.

In The Wizard of Oz,
I saw myself as Dorothy—
who fell asleep to dreams
well-lived.

In The Sound of Music,
I saw myself as Liesl von Trapp,
who saw the greatness of her country
diminishing.

In Kitty Foyle,
I saw myself as “that sassy Mick”—
once in love with an unattainable man.

In Elmer Gantry,
I saw myself as Sister Sharon Falconer—
whose faith was strong,
even as her love for a man made her weak.

In Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,
I saw myself as Milly,
who tried to smooth out a rough-hewn man.

In Gone with the Wind,
I saw myself as Scarlett O’Hara—
who proved that strength and tenacity
could save it all.

Classic movies have always been
my happy distraction,
for in them,
I saw the parallels of my own life,
and though their pain wasn’t my pain,
their joys were my joys.

I Am a Slow-Speaking Lady

Reflections, Saint Patrick's Day

I am a slow-speaking lady,
a cracked Southern belle.
I am a Pollyanna at times,
an H.L. Mencken at others.
I am a Christian outside church,
a skeptic, a questioner, inside.
I am a lover of old things,
a user of new things.
I am okay and not okay.
I go by no other name—
no Mrs., no Dr.,
and never Sally.
I am someone’s brown-haired,
less intellectual
Diane Chambers.
I am a Lucy,
looking for her Ethel.
I am a bra-hating
non-feminist,
stuck in a society
stuck on teats.
I am a 35-year-old mama
playing her gender role
to the cross.
I am a black Irish,
white-collar,
working-class gal,
whose freckles
number the stars.
I am an open book,
a woman of mystery—
right down to the
witty gritty.
I am unilaterally deaf,
bilaterally blinded by
what is going on in the world,
for mine is a series of
unnatural disasters.
I am strong as spider’s silk,
as vulnerable as Hitch’s
leading ladies.
I am all these things;
I am more than these things,
for there is no end
to that which makes me,
me.

Micropoetry Monday: Faith & Spirituality

He preached to the masses
of their filthy rags of righteousness,
but it was when he preached the “Happy Texts”
that his people saw less the ugliness of man,
& more the beauty of the Divine.

They were not found in Salt Lake,
nor in the Church of Scientology.
They were not found in buildings,
nor in any book or prophet.
To know Him
was to know His Words–
words that had been translated
so many times,
that the person who sought Him
tried to make sense of what was left.

God was everywhere,
whether or not we chose to
drink Him in.
His DNA infiltrated our cells—
He had taken His image,
& made copies—
worth more than original
Picassos—
every one of which He paid
the highest price for;
though some would sell themselves
to the lowest bidder.

I’ve lived a thousand deaths such as these,
but the only two that will matter in the end,
will be the one that separates me from this earth,
& the one that reunites me with the God
whose work behind the scenes of my life
I recognize as per His direction.

When they eradicated all of the mental defects,
they eradicated the physical.
When they had done that,
they eradicated the ugly,
but in place of beauty,
there was only coldness,
& no one left to save
or be saved.

“For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”
(Isaiah 53:2)

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

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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

Great Sources for Children’s Songs

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Singing has always been one of my favorite things to do in the car (when I’m not listening to talk radio) and in church; so naturally, when I had a child, I wanted to sing to her, but not always old country tunes or church hymns (though we do the latter on Sunday night after I read to her from the children’s Bible).  I loved “Wee Sing” as a kid, because kids sang the songs, and the lyrics and melodies were easy to remember.  Whenever my family watched the Olympics, I loved listening to the different anthems, and chorus was one of my favorite classes in high school (even though the teacher asked me to please lip sync during performances).  When I was a little girl, “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” were two of my favorite movies, and part of that was because of the music.  Some movies like “Pocahontas” and “Rent” were only good for their singles.  Music in movies is like poetry in motion (pardon the cliché), and I’ve found many greats in the motion pictures.  How different would “The Graduate” have been without that awesome soundtrack?

There is just something about music that stirs the soul, and though I am hardly musically inclined (a sheet of music is like an unreadable map to me), I love it, and I wanted to instill in my daughter a love for it, too (it might even help her in math later, so I’ve heard).

  1. “The Wee Cooper of Fife” (the song the children in the schoolhouse are singing in “The Birds”).
  2. “Tammy” (from “Tammy and the Bachelor”, with Debbie Reynolds; though I would say this song is more appropriate for a little girl).
  3. “Early One Morning” (the first couple of lines of this song were sung by Pollyanna and Nancy when they were delivering calves foot jelly to the poor, but those two lines stuck with me and I googled the song), finding this wonderful link so I could hear the entire melody (I had to go to a separate site to find the lyrics):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OAyS8OK9J4
  4. “Que Sera Sera” (the classic Doris Day song, from “The Man Who Knew Too Much”).  This is a very sweet song.  The refrain of “Skedaddle Skidoo” (also sung by Doris Day in “The Tunnel of Love”) is cute, too.
  5. “Popcorn Popping” was a song I learned when I served a calling in the nursery when I was LDS.  It’s great because it has fingerplays to accompany the words.
  6. In the 1944 WWII film, “Since You Went Away”, two young lovebirds are walking through a farm, singing, “Oh, my darling Clementine”.  When I looked up the actual “campfire” song, I was surprised at some of the lyrics, but from Mother Goose (like the “Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” who whipped her children, which is considered child abuse today) to Stephen Foster (whose songs are just all in fun and were written in a very different time), you’re going to run into some objectionable words and phrases.
  7. HooplaKidz on YouTube is great (and free).
  8. The soundtrack from “The Sound of Music”.  My parents bought my daughter a xylophone, and it’s great for demonstrating “Do Re Mi”.  I often love to incorporate many of Hannah’s “favorite things” (Oprah and Maria von Trapp aren’t the only ones!) into the song.
  9. Christmas songs!  “Away in a Manger” is like a lullaby.  I like both the secular and the religious, though I only sing the secular at Christmastime.  (Christmas is in December; Jesus is for all seasons.)
  10. http://www.theteachersguide.com/ChildrensSongs.htm.  Great site for lyrics, but I have to go to YouTube to get the melody.  Who ever knew there were so many verses to “London Bridge”?  I made up sign language for every verse, which has been terribly fun.  My daughter bounces and claps whenever I start a song with a dance of the arms and hands.

Musings on Motherhood

 

Twenty-Five Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Mom

1. I have learned patience, because I had to teach it to myself, or else go crazy.  Sometimes, instead of praying that God will make her easier to deal with at a particular moment, I pray that He will help me better handle the situation.  Babies cry, and it’s okay if you need to give yourself a “time-out” sometimes.

~
2. “Baby brain” does not go away.  Unless my child is asleep, I have never been able to focus on something like I did before.  That’s part of being a mom.

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3. I don’t always sleep when the baby sleeps.  That’s when I get things done.  My house is cleaner than it’s ever been, because once they start crawling, they will find every microscopic piece of dirt and put it in their mouth.  And if that’s all it is, don’t fret over it.

~
4. I find myself looking for clues, a hint, at what my daughter may become.  We see her turning over her xylophone, spinning the wheels, trying to figure them out, and we think, “She’s going to be an engineer.”  When she inspects Brian’s teeth, it’s, “She’s going to be a dentist.”  We will nurture her talents as we nurture her (especially if it means she’ll make enough to take care of us in our old age).

~
5. Though I am a creative individual, I found I’ve developed a more playful imagination.  There is a certain sort of magic about childhood that’s precious.  My daughter likes to lift up an edge of the area rug on our tile floor and I pretend there’s another world under there (like the other little girl in the mirror).  Children are filled with wonder and curiosity.  Nurture that as well.

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6. Sitting on the floor and playing with my child is quite cathartic and relaxing after a long day at work or a heavy study session.  It refreshes me and helps me focus even better when I have to return to adult matters.

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7. I now have a reason for swinging on the swings at the park.  (I have to show her how, after all.)  I’ve been sillier than I’ve ever been in my life.  Blowing bubbles is fun, and jumping on the trampoline will be fun–all over again.  One of my favorite things to do when I was little was to line up all my dolls and stuffed animals and yell at them (I guess that’s what I thought being an adult was all about).  I find that I am living a second childhood (not reliving), and that is not a bad thing.

~
8. I’ve developed a new appreciation for Dr. Seuss.  I didn’t grow up with him (my parents preferred Mother Goose) and I always thought his illustrations were ugly.  But, a preschool teacher friend of mine was big on him, so I gave him a chance and, like “Green Eggs and Ham”, I tried him and now love him (and his drawings).  It is never too early to read to your child, and you can never have too many books.  And, if you manage to acquire some board books that aren’t in the best condition (or, if not, just go to the dollar store), let them have at them, so they can learn how to turn the pages, and just have the experience holding a book.  I read at least a novel a week, and I make sure she sees me reading.

~
9. Songs hold their attention more when you use sign language.  I made up sign language for all twelve stanzas of “London Bridge is Falling Down”.

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10. My selfies have diminished and Hannah is now the darling of my camera.  My interest in photography has increased.  When buying a camera, get a good one.  It’s worth the investment.

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11. I’ve found myself wanting to learn more, for the more I know, the more I can teach her.

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12. 90% of my daughter’s time is unstructured, but 10% is learning through play (or just plain playing), the Montessori way.   I’ve learned that when kids are bored, they are forced to use their imagination.

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13. Baby talk.  I’d always said I’d never do it, but I do.  (Hey, Shakespeare made up words, too.)

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14. There is no such thing as too many paccies (or batteries).

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15. If you think you’re selfish when you’re single, that naturally diminishes when you become a mom.  As much as I want a new wardrobe, I want her to have the preschool experience more.

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16. It’s okay to not jump up and comfort them every time they fall.  Sometimes distracting them is enough to ward off a crying jag.

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17. It’s okay to let them get messy.  It’s good for sensory development to let them play with their food. (Mine loves to smash avocado all over her face and hair.)  If they’re hungry, they’ll eat it.  And putting them in the bath afterwards to play is a snap.

~
18. Everything takes longer with a baby.  I have found that I’ve had to prioritize my time more.  Do I really need to see that episode of “Law and Order” again?  Children also aren’t made to be quiet and still all the time.  That’s what the DVR is for.

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19. I have received a lot of unsolicited advice about child-rearing.  None of it has been useful.

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20. It’s okay if you can’t breast-feed.  It doesn’t mean you’re lazy.  Sometimes it just doesn’t happen, no matter how much you want it to.

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21. I know I will never be able to protect my children from all “bad” foods.  There will be parties, there might even be McDonald’s.  That doesn’t mean I ever have to take her there.

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22. They’ll walk when they’re ready.  My daughter’s pediatrician, every single appointment, would mention about her being “developmentally delayed”.  My husband would bristle at the less than tactful terminology, but we’re putting her through all the tests (as much for her well-being as for our peace of mind), and at twenty months, she is walking (and isn’t stopping).

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23. I think back about my own parents and appreciate them more than I ever have in my life.  I never really knew how much my parents loved me till I had my own child.  All the pain, even the “indignity” of childbirth, the weight gain, the stretch marks, the lack of sleep, not being able to just pick up and go, the sense of being overwhelmed when you’re first alone with them, has all been worth it.

~
24. I never think I’m a good enough mom, but I’ve found that if you’re trying to be, you are.

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25. Most of all, I make sure to make Hannah laugh.  A child’s smile is a light in a sometimes dark world, and their laughter is the music.

XXOO

Snapshots: A Life, One Line at a Time

Dad

Snapshots

The night you brought me home,
I cannot remember.

The day you gave me my first bath,
I remember only what you told me—
that I held my breath till I turned purple,
and then you splashed me (gently) in the face,
startling me.

The day I took my first steps,
you cheered me on,
like you’d never seen it done.
I know, for I’ve seen the pictures.

The day I got sick and almost passed away,
when I wanted nothing more than apple juice
and a ride around in a wheelchair
with my redheaded Cabbage Patch named Michelle on my lap.
I remember that.

You told me Dad was there, with me,
as you were outside the door,
for you could not bear to hear my screams as they gave me a spinal tap.

I’m glad I don’t remember the pain,
only frayed fragments in golden hues—
the good things that remained.

I remember Kelly Morgan, my brother, was born around then,
and how I wished he’d been a girl.

The hearing on my left side was gone, and I,
not understanding that my world could have become a silent one.

I was not afraid as you were,
for I knew not enough to be afraid.

I remember when you took me to the private school with the clean walls,
and the playground with the skyscraping, spiral slide that was a terrifying vortex;
the school where all the teachers wore dresses and
where our hands had to be folded at our desks during quiet time,
the sound of the principal’s heels echoing down the hall.

Every morning, Dad would take me to Delchamps,
for a chocolate milk and a brownie for breakfast,
because eggs made me gag and he always burned the bacon.

I remember the days you picked me up from the public school,
so I wouldn’t have to sit on the smelly schoolbus,
horrid in the humid, Floridian clime,
kids scrawling with their fingers on the grimy windows,
windows covered with condensation,
making the glass appear frosted,
the inside like a giant snow globe,
the weak sunlight filtering in,
hazy like snow.

I remember the green vinyl seats were sticky in the heat,
the muddied dirt tracked in the aisles, catching in the grooves—
the long space imbued with a damp, earthy smell,
like mold, and clothes that had been washed and left too long.

I didn’t want to sit with the boy with the perpetual comb,
I didn’t want to sit with Melinda Sue,
I wanted to sit with you.

I remember all the times you took me to the bookstore in the mall,
always wanting the newest Babysitters Club book.

You instilled in me a love for reading,
for you read to me all the nursery rhymes—
stories of birds flying out of pies
and children living out of shoes.

Whenever you’d read to me, “Little Boy Blue,”
and you’d get to the part where he’d cry,
I’d beg you to stop reading,
with a tear in my eye.

I remember you wouldn’t let me watch Married with Children,
but instilled within me a love for old movies and glamour long gone,
of country music that sounded like country.
I discovered ABBA on my own,
but I wouldn’t have had it any other way,
for many of those things you showed me,
I love still today.

You introduced me to Pollyanna and Shirley Temple,
Candyland and Rainbow Brite,
with some Strawberry Shortcake on the side.
You laughed with me at Bullwinkle, let me love Lucy,
and watch Nickelodeon, back when it was good.

I never had a dollhouse,
but neither did I go without.
The fewer things I wanted, but could not have,
the more my imagination grew.
I appreciate that now,
as I could not then.

Plain white paper became snowflakes,
snowing confetti on the floor,
so the living room became a wonderland.
I was like Elsa, before Elsa came to be.

Then there were the endless guessing games,
games that drove Mom crazy,
and all the times you helped me with school projects
that didn’t make any sense to me,
some not even to you.

I remember all the summers you drove me up to Poplar Bluff,
to let me stay with my grandparents and be near extended family,
so that I could experience what you once had.

I don’t remember all the burned meals you served me,
but I know they sustained me.
I don’t remember every time you took me to a friend’s,
but I remember how friends were hard enough to make.
I don’t remember all the times I made you angry,
but it was never enough to strike,
and that wasn’t because I wasn’t so bad,
it was because you were so good.

I remember my high school graduation,
but I more remember you taking me to Mr. Manatee’s restaurant downtown,
now gone after Hurricane Ivan,
just ashes a-blowing in the wind.

I remember the day you came to my wedding,
even though I cannot remember your face,
for so focused was I on Brian,
thinking that life would never be the same,
for it marked the day it was time to put away childish things.

I remember you coming to the hospital when Hannah Beth was born,
but it was just my husband I wanted in the delivery room—
so many different kinds of love in one room,
it was like everything wonderful and happening all at once.

I still see you so often,
for you live just down the road.
I am so glad you get to know Hannah.
I know now I love her in a way you love me,
and you love her in the way your parents’ did.

The times I was away and didn’t call and you worried . . . 
I’m sorry I didn’t understand your anger then.

No, I never knew how much you loved me,
till I became a parent myself.
But wait, that isn’t right . . . I knew all along—
the only difference now is that I understand.

Mom