It's been a weird year for a lot of reasons and reading has been no exception. This year has been a rollercoaster of not reading at all and then finishing 3 books a week. When all was said and done, I can say it's been a good year of books and there aren't many other chances to describe this year as being good! Drumroll please for a list of favorites!
What. A. Year.
Let's flashback for a moment. New Year's Eve 1999. Dooo doo dooo dooo (That is a time traveling sound effect...Humor me). I was about to turn 14 and my best friend and I were rocking out to The Wedding Singer soundtrack while her older sister had a much cooler party upstairs in which we were not allowed to show our faces. You don't have to tell me how cool I was, the answer is: VERY. Okay, so, it's 1999, the Prince song is everywhere and it is the dawn of the new millennium. Everyone is anxious about Y2K. We are nervous to see how everything will change. We are hopeful for the future. We are IN the future. You can burn your own CDs for goodness sake!
Flash forward to now *insert sound effect* and we're nervous for about a million reasons. Back then I wondered if I would still be able to use AIM, or how "it will be so weird to write '00 on my paper!" Now, I wonder about how quickly a vaccine can be delivered. I wonder what in-person school will look like after being online since March. I wonder how to challenge myself and others after a year of political and social unrest. I wonder if I'll ever shake someone's hand again or be cool about toilet paper. The issues are bigger, but the energy feels the same: Bring it on, future. Whatcha got?
I'm excited for 2020 to be in the rear view mirror, but it has taught me a thing or two. It taught me patience, how to unmute myself, how to style the upper half of my body, how to not take anything for granted, how to clean out all of my closets twice, how to spend more time outside, and to be oh-so-grateful for good health. My heart and soul goes out to everyone who has struggled through this year or who has lost someone they loved. Let's forever tell their stories as well as our own.
This New Year's Eve will be me, my dog, When Harry Met Sally, and we're gonna (not quite) party like it's 1999.
It's time for another writing contest! Thank you to Susanna Hill for running the contest and to everyone who is offering up their time and talent as prizes! Please go check out Susanna's blog here!
This year's theme is Holiday Helpers. The story must be 250 words or less and focus around the theme of helping out during this holiday season. Intrigued by the fact that it's winter up here in the Northern Hemisphere, but summer in the Southern Hemisphere, I chose to write a story about two girls a world apart who are helping their families celebrate the solstice. Enjoy!
by Kirsten Leestma
Aada hangs a tangle of twinkle lights.
Zara strings a strand of shells.
Aada twirls hers around a pine and Zara twists hers around a palm.
Aada bakes gingerbread friends in the warm oven. She stands close so they don’t get away.
Zara arranges fresh fruit into the shape of Santa. She sneaks a few grapes to stay cool.
Aada puts the cookies on the table and Zara sets her tray on a blanket near the waves.
Aada clomps through the snow to bring in new logs for the fire.
Zara skips across the sand to snag the umbrella for shade.
Aada gathers her family to celebrate light in the darkness and Zara gathers hers to celebrate a day of endless sun.
Aada’s eyes sparkle in the glow of candlelight on the shortest day of the year.
Zara’s eyes sparkle the way the sun shines across the sea on the longest.
Aada smiles. Zara does, too. They've helped create a perfect day.
It’s December 21st. Winter and Summer are here.
Once upon a time I won my third grade speech competition. Technically I think there was a four way tie, but that's besides the point. The point is that the topic of our speeches was "what you want to be when you grow up." That answer was easy for third grade me. I wanted to be an author. Ever since I stapled together a few pages about a family of tigers, I knew I wanted to have that feeling over and over again.
So, I gave my speech (heavy on the Roald Dahl quotes), collected my participation trophy, and went on my way. I wrote a lot when I was a kid. In journals, a few more stapled books, but as it too often happens, the habit fell by the wayside. High school and college happened and most of my time was consumed with sports, concerts, studying, and friends. Writing wasn't a real thing anyway.
I graduated with a degree in education and embarked out into the world of teaching. I love teaching. I get to teach young kids how to read and share so many cool things about our world. I wouldn't take that back.
But I wish I would have realized sooner that it's not one or the other. You do not have to be just one thing when you grow up. You do not just have to do the job because it pays the bills. Okay, maybe you have to do the bill-paying thing, but what I mean is that I should have been writing this whole time.
A few years ago I got back into it. I joined SCBWI and met up with local writing groups. I have approximately 10 works in progress and I never know if that's too many or not nearly enough. Some weeks I write a lot, some weeks have more of a Netflix vibe.
Last September a piece of my writing was published for the first time. I wrote a poem called IN MY YARD and submitted it to Root & Star Magazine. I still can't believe that I can open it up and see my piece in front of me. The feeling is just the same as it was when I stapled those notebook pages together. I hesitated to call myself an author until I had something in print. But, really, I've been one all along.
Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that The Story of Ferdinand was my favorite book as a kid. What was it about that bull who liked to sit just quietly beneath the cork tree and smell the flowers? I don't know, but I read it more times than I can count.
When I bought a house a few years back, it took me all of one week to also get a dog. "Oh I'll just go to this adoption event and look," were my famous last words. I already had dog food and a leash in the car. I was obviously coming home with a puppy. And I did. And she's awesome. Her name is Pigeon and I thought, "maybe I'll be a jogger now! I can go jogging with my dog!" She was not about that. Jogging is very much not her thing, which is one of the several reasons we're best friends. Friends don't let friends jog for no reason. She is the most chill dog ever. She is Ferdinand and now I have photographic evidence.
She doesn't like to fight (or jog), she lays down on the sidewalk if we happen to pass another dog, and she is content to sit just quietly and smell the flowers. And you know what? Me too.
I’ve had these boots for years. Ten? Maybe longer? I got them my senior year of college, so I guess that means they’re 12 years old. I still refuse to believe I left college more than a decade ago.
I love them. I found them on sale at a local boot store in Northern Michigan and it didn’t take much convincing after the words ‘on sale.’ They also have toggles and who doesn’t love a toggle? These boots trekked across my final year on campus, through countless days of outdoor recess, and in and out of two apartments and one home. They’ve walked the dog and are one of two pairs of shoes I wear during the winter. The other being very fluffy slippers.
These boots have gone through a lot and I probably should have replaced them several years ago, (again, I refuse to believe that I’m more than 5 years past graduation) but I haven’t. They’re seriously the comfiest and haven’t started to leak, so I’m good.
Why am I telling you about boots? Great question. My goal this winter is to spend more time outdoors. I love being outside, I just don’t love being cold. My winters usually consist of going to work and then promptly putting on giant sweatpants and drinking hot beverages until it’s time for bed.
This year, however, I am very much not looking forward to the next 6 months of winter being cooped up inside. I’ve been inside A LOT since March. We all have. I’m grateful for our pretty Michigan summers when I was able to safely enjoy the lake, but...winter is cold, you guys!
Last summer I was in Finland where it gets very cold and very dark for a good portion of the year. Living within the arctic circle is not for everyone, my friends. The general spirit of Finland, however, is to just keep on going. Cold? Bundle up. Winter swim? Why not. The harsh weather doesn’t seem to get in the way of how they live their life. We toured a school that had a mud room. A mud room! (If you’re reading this from outside the Midwest, this is not a room filled with mud. It’s a transitional room from outside to inside where you leave muddy boots, wet clothes, etc.) What a game changer. You’re telling me the kids can come in from recess and hang all of their wet clothes appropriately and not leave giant chunks of mud on my rug? This is the dream.
So, this winter I plan to take a page from their book. Put on the boots, deal with it, and get outside.
Boo! It's time for another #FallWritingFrenzy! Thank you to Kaitlyn Sanchez and Lydia Lukidis and all of the donors for running this contest for a second year. The challenge is to write a 200 word or less story based on the fall photo of your choice. Enjoy!
The Haunted House (151 Words)
“Let’s go to a haunted house.”
“We ARE the haunted house, Bob.”
“Yeah, I know, but don’t you ever get tired of being spooky?”
“I’m a skeleton. I’m very good at being spooky. Also, baking.”
“Come on, I know just the place. Verrrrry spooky. It got a five-star rating on Gulp.”
“Oh really, Bob?”
“Really. My bones are already shaking.”
“What could possibly scare us? We are professional skeletons. The best in the biz.”
“That’s true, but I promise this place will really rattle you, Frank!”
“Fine, but I need to be back in an hour. I have a pumpkin pie in the oven.”
“Here we are! Oh, I don’t think I can go in!”
“Bob, this was your idea. This place doesn’t look spooky at all!”
“Read the sign, Frank.”
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