The first shall be last and the last shall be first

“This writing prompt made me think of you. I would love to see what you do with it,” a Facebook friend challenged me.

Write a story that begins and ends with the same sentence, but make the sentence have a different meaning by the end.

It sounded easy, but in reality, it took some mental gymnastics to execute.  This is what I came up with.


Tarquin was stoned.  He lay crumpled in a white-sheeted heap against the wall of the cave.  Some “toga party”.  He was freezing his giblets off, and it was dark, save for a single candle (potpourri scented), not to mention they’d taken his sandals.  He hadn’t bothered wearing underwear.  His heart was pounding, and yet, he saw everything with perfect clarity.

Ricki, Kim and Andrea had all lured him here for one purpose.  Well, they had had their way with him.

He was black and blue from temple to ankle and covered with lacerations–stripes for the sins of Tarquin Oliver.  He started to fade out, like he had when he’d given plasma.  Suddenly, nothing was clear anymore.  Tarquin was stoned.

Sarah Lea’s Body Butter

Sarah Lea’s Body Butter. They come in lemon shortbread, lime sherbet, orange sherbet, thinly mint and lavender vanilla. They are $5.00 ea. plus $3.50 S&H. Three ingredients: pure cocoa butter, pure coconut oil and pure essential oils (for fragrance). Absolutely no water like hand lotions, so it moisturizes far better. The consistency is like Yoplait Whips (think of aerated mousse). Every “flavor” of body butter has a soap companion if you want to purchase them as a set.

Available Sets 

Lemon:  lemon poppyseed soap, lemon shortbread body butter
Lime:  salted lime soap, lime sherbet body butter
Orange:  orange blossom soap, orange sherbet body butter
Mint:  mint julep soap, thinly mint body butter
Lavender:  lavender rose soap, lavender vanilla body butter
*All sets are $10.00 each plus S&H


My Five Starter Soaps

Sarah Lea’s Soaps (a branch of Sarah Lea Sales) is officially in business.  I have a PayPal account ( a Facebook ( page, and I’ve just applied to become a merchant at our local outdoor market.  Of course, there is a waiting list (three people ahead of me wanting to sell handmade soap), but I am not letting that deter me.  I am using my time wisely, learning all I can about melt-and-pour soap making, and crafting enough stock to open my own booth.  By the time I can sell, I’ll be well prepared.

I am also trying to wholesale my way into a local shop.  A local friend of mine (whom I originally met through the “Women for Romney” Facebook page, and who also got me involved in the local writer’s group) endorsed me to her friend, who runs a shop. that sells handmade wares.  I met up with her last week at her store to show her some samples, and it seemed promising (I just have to wait till the rest of my packaging and labeling supplies come in so I can show her the finished product).

I admit, I don’t expect to sell much online (who buys soap if they can’t smell it beforehand?), but at least it’ll get my name out there.

My soap creations are as follows:  Lavender rose:

lavender roselavender rose back

Lemon poppyseed:

lemon poppyseed

Mint julep:

mintI mintII mintIII

Orange sherbet:

orange sherbet

And salted lime:

salted lime salted lime back

My first attempt at making body butter (lemon shortbread to complement the lemon poppyseed soap) was not quite successful.  It just seemed too greasy, so it’s back to the drawing (smorgas)bord.  Right now, my focus is on the soaps as they’re more eye-catching.  In the meantime, I’ll never have to buy hand lotion again!


The Thrill of it All


For those unfamiliar with the Doris Day and James Garner movie (hence the title), it’s about a housewife (Day) whose sudden rise to fame as a soap spokesperson causes chaos in her house.  Just for the record, there isn’t anything but the normal chaos in my household; however, I am becoming a soap spokeswoman, advertising my own handmade soap (though no TV commercials).

The name of my company is Sarah Lea’s Soaps (Sarah Lea is really my name, so I have the right to use it, and it is spelled completely different than the cake and pie lady’s, and in a much prettier way)–a branch of Sarah Lea Sales, LLC (as I plan on expanding and selling other things in the future).

A Facebook friend of mine who sells her handmade jewelry on Etsy ( has gotten a bunch of her gal friends together and we’re starting a handmade item selling group.  This led to another friend of mine getting me an “interview” of sorts with a woman she sells her quilts to.  Her quilts can be found here:

So, here I am, perfecting my line of soaps and complementing body butters (for example, I’m pairing a lemon poppyseed soap with a lemon shortbread whipped body butter), ordering packaging (which is extremely important, as it is the “first impression” for your product) through Bulk Apothecary, creating a product label (which I did through a retro template on Staples online), searching for new recipes on Pinterest, etc.  I will eventually design my own label with my own artwork/photography, but for now, I just need to have something for the proprietor to see, smell and sample.

Some friends and I were having a discussion on Facebook about how the average person has seven careers in their lifetime; I’ve heard that many people who major in one thing in college don’t even end up working in that field.  I can relate, because I never thought even a few years ago, I would have any interest in making consumable products.  One of the many reasons I write is because a book is not “used up” once it’s been read–stories are timeless, they are legacies.  Films have been made about people who have sacrificed their lives to save a piece of art.

I’ve always thought of a recipe as being timeless, but the product of a recipe as not.  However, things that give us pleasure for a time have great worth, because they create memories.  I can still remember some of the best meals I’ve ever had, or the prettiest bouquets I’ve ever arranged.  Still, a part of me feels the need to have something concrete of these memories, either in word or in image, like a photograph.  (I’ve been channeling my inner Georgia O’Keefe with my pictures of gladiolas, my favorite flower; I took the photo below because it looked like a heart.)

Gladiola in sepia

Just as I will be taking photos of all my prettiest soaps.  (I’ve come a long way from the soaps at top.)

I feel like I’m having my own private Renaissance.  I am seeking to learn and do new things, read different kinds of books (it is very easy to get stuck reading the same authors, or even the same types of authors), and cook new foods (I’ve been experimenting with Paleo desserts).

I truly believe the more you know, the more enjoyable life is, because the less likely you are to be bored.  When I was LDS, I was taught that “the glory of God is intelligence”.  I have to say, that glory is quite illuminating.

The Benefits of College in my Thirties

As I drove across town to my Heath Care Law class the other day, I realized I’m enjoying college more the second time around, even though I’m not immersed in the “college experience”.  I don’t live on campus, I don’t participate in any of the activities, and I only attend one class, once a week for two hours in the evening (my other two classes are online).

There are many reasons for this.  For starters, I am less shy and more at ease with making new friends.  I’m not as self-conscious as I used to be.  I feel more confident talking to my professors; I don’t feel I have to “stay under the radar”.  I believe it’s important to make an impression, and that is how I live my life.  Cashiers tend to remember me, as well as former co-workers and customers.  I don’t treat anyone as if they are “just there”.

There was an article that was shared on Facebook by a friend awhile back about how people are happier if they don’t just have good relationships with those closest to them, but also seek to be friendly and engage with people they have casual contact with, even if they only see them once in their life.

Back to school.  I love the technological advances that have come about in education during my fifteen year hiatus, like the convenience of online classes.  Though there is quite a bit more homework when you take an online class (in my experience so far), the games and interactive activities help me remember the material so much more than reading textbooks alone.

However, I still take at least one class on campus, for the on-campus experience alone–it’s like getting the best of both worlds.

Another advantage I have that I didn’t have when I was seventeen was fifteen years of teaching myself the writing craft, which has made writing college papers a snap.  (To tell the truth, I’d rather write five papers than study for one test.  I retain the information better because I apply it, rather than just memorize it.)

The life experience I’ve accumulated has helped me see the bigger picture–that I need a degree to get where I want to go (I grew up in a household where college wasn’t encouraged, where my parents and grandparents had done just fine without a college degree).  When I was graduated from high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do beyond becoming a best-selling author; as long as I could still do what I loved, I didn’t really care how I spent the rest of my time working.  That has changed.  Knowing what I want a career in (until I do become a bestselling author) has given me the purpose and direction I didn’t have before.

I have inner peace in knowing I am doing the right thing at the right time.

For Fans of Dr. Seuss: Sweet Potatoes and Yams

I’ll admit, I’ve never been a fan of Dr. Seuss (not even when I was a kid).  It wasn’t so much the stories, but the illustrations, which I thought were ugly.  I’m still not a fan of the drawings, but I was inspired the other night to spoof (for lack of a better word) “Green Eggs and Ham”.  I’d thought about including “Sweet Potatoes and Yams” in my collection of children’s nursery rhymes, and while I’m all for fractured nursery rhymes and fairy tale retellings, this just seemed a bit too close to the original to be legal.

I just read that “Green Eggs and Ham” (as of 2001) is the fourth best-selling English language children’s book of all time.  I will say, when I think of “Green Eggs and Ham”, I think of the yolks of eggs that have been boiled too long and pork at the Cracker Barrel “restaurant”.  (My mom once ordered pork there, and it was green upon arrival.)

I came up with the idea of sweet potatoes (I’ve been trying to like healthier foods, sweet potatoes being one of them) when I finally found a recipe using them I liked, which can be found here:

I’m hardly an artist (when it comes to pencil and paint), but, since blog posts with pictures grab the eye more, I concocted a “Veggie Tale” style tuber/cartoonified sweet potato.  I still don’t get why they’re a paleo food and regular potatoes are not (they both grow in the ground; they are both natural foods), but that’s a topic for another post.  I am considering using my free Shutterfly photo book offer to “publish” the digitally-illustrated story, “Sweet Potatoes and Yams” for my daughter, who I think might just get a kick out of it.


Sweet Potatoes and Yams


I am Shirley,
Shirley am I.
I like all potatoes—red, yellow and white,
and even purple, cooked just right.
But I do not like sweet potatoes,
and I do not like yams;
I don’t care if they’re fresh or canned.
I do not care if they’re frozen,
or even if they come in flakes mixed into cakes.
I do not like them I say–
not in any way!

I do not like them baked,
I do not like them mashed.
I would not eat them dried,
I would not eat them fried.
I do not like candied yams,
or sweet potato pies.
I do not like them with brown sugar,
I do not like them with cinna-butter,
I do not like them with peanut butter.
I do not like them in salads,
I do not like them in soups,
I do not like them in any group.

I would not eat them at home,
I would not eat them at Gram’s,
or even at Uncle Silo Sam’s.
I would not eat them at a diner,
I would not eat them anywhere finer.
I would not eat them at the beach,
or at the park on a bench.
I would not eat them salted and fried French.

I would not give them to my dog,
I would not give them to my cat.
I would not even eat them with a side of hog.
I do not like sweet potatoes or yams.
I would not, could not eat them,
without them coming back up, no ma’am.

I do not like them when I am high or low,
sideways or cross-eyed,
inside or outside,
coming or going,
or to and fro.
I do not like them anywhere I stay or go.

“Eat these, Mama says,
“these are brownies.
Just a bit of mashed sweet,
with a little cocoa and honey—a real treat.”

I cross my arms, shake my head and say,
“I do not like them, I say!
I do not like them with honey,
I would not eat them for money.
I do not like them with maple,
they will never be my staple.
I do not like them in muffins,
I do not like them in bread,
I do not like them at all, I said.”

“You may like them,” she says with a sigh,
“if you just close your eyes and try.”

She takes a bite,
and then holds them out to me,
“Here, like them you might.”

I double down and say,
“I cannot, will not, ever eat them,
so put them away!”

“Could you, would you, just try a taste?”
I shake my head and make a face.

Just then, my little brother Charlie walks in.
He is brave, braver than I, for he takes a bite,
and says, “These are quite all right.”

He cannot be braver than me,
I will show him,
so I take a nibble and say,
“I do like sweet potatoes,
but only this way!”

“I would eat these squares fried at a fair,
or in bed on a dare in my underwear.
I would eat them at Gram’s,
I would eat them at Uncle Silo Sam’s.
I would give these to my dog to share,
or the rest to my cat to spare.
I would eat these once a day, every day,
and just this way!
I like sweet potatoes and yams,
or my name isn’t Shirley Graham.”