Thursday, December 26, 2013

Five for Friday: Year End Celebration


It's the end of the year.  I feel it in every tired sigh; every pound I've put on; every muscle that yearns to be stretched; every urge to begin anew with fresh plans, re-prioritized goals, and (dare I say it aloud?) New Year's resolutions.

As a writer, a mother, a homemaker, and a participant in the human "race," frustration is part of the job description.  While I am able to do many things adequately to keep myself and my family afloat, I crave those extra, non-existent hours to focus on one thing at a time until I am satisfied that I have met my own lofty expectations.

I am reminded of Becky Shillington's tree, which she described in her recent visit to the Haiku Garden.  I stretch upward, brushing the surface of the life that I envision for myself.  But while I'm proud of my accomplishments so far, I know that I'm not there yet-- it's still out of reach, just beyond my squinty gaze. 

New Year's resolutions, or for me, goals, are a way of seeing my way toward that life I envision for myself.  Do you make New Year's resolutions?

For those of you who stop by today, I hope you will join my celebration of moving forward.  To participate, string five words together (plus title if you wish) about the year's end, the start of the new year, a resolution that you have adopted, or perhaps a reason for not making resolutions at all.  Leave them in the comments and then I will move them up to the party room.

I also hope you will join Mary Lee at A Year of Reading, who is celebrating the 52nd Friday of the year with today's Poetry Friday roundup.



This time I mean it.

* * *

Smooth White Page

Working toward possibilities presently unimagined.

-Tabatha Yeatts, The Opposite of Indifference

* * *

outward, onward, write, smile, love

-M. M. Socks, The Drawer of M. M. Socks

* * *

On the Eve of the New Year

Ready, willing
to begin anew.

-Mary Lee, A Year of Reading

* * *

In a Nutshell

It's not problem, it's yours.

-Diane Mayr, Random Noodling

* * *

Twenty fourteen already? Oh my.

-No Stinkin Ultracrepidarian

* * *


simply wired
to be inspired

-Liana Mahoney

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Love: Views from a Window Seat

You won't find a lot of book reviews on Today's Little Ditty.  While I love to read, reviewing books usually feels like homework, and this Ditty Girl doesn't do book reports.  However, every once in a while a book comes along that feels like an old friend-- one that sits so comfortably in my heart, by sharing it I feel as if I am sharing a piece of myself. 

Views from a Window Seat: Thoughts On Writing And Life, by Jeannine Atkins, is one of those.

A few of you may remember a certain giveaway on Irene Latham's blog, Live Your Poem, last month.  It was marked by waving hands, flailing elbows, pushing and shoving... okay, there were no flailing elbows to speak of, but the rest is all true.  Somehow, I managed to win that giveaway, and have been savoring Jeannine's book in bits and pieces ever since.

On the surface, this is a book of essays that focuses on the writing process.  It is organized into four sections, or seasons, as viewed from Jeannine's window seat: Spring: Beginning, Summer: Moving Through the Middle, Fall: Revising, and Winter: Finding an End.  But really, this book is so much more than a how-to guide.  It's an honest look at what it means to be a writer, a beautiful personal account of one writer's journey, and a source of meditation and motivation-- an inspirational companion. 

I have chosen to share with you a piece from one of Jeannine's winter essays, titled "Words and Wreaths."  The reason I chose it is because my parents arrived this week from out of town.  Up until now, we've scarcely paid any mind to holiday preparations at the Barnes house-- no tree, no lights, no cookies.  Why? Because we've been too distracted by "everything else."  Family time has taken a back seat to homework, outside social engagements, work responsibilities, and a whole lot of same old same old.  But now that school is out and the grandparents are here, the full orchestration of togetherness and family holiday traditions can begin!

In the following passage, Jeannine describes her annual tradition of hosting a gathering where family and friends make holiday wreaths together: 

       A friend admired the bushiness of the one I made this year, the way branches jutted every which way.  I told her that this was how I write, first going for broke, leaving the clipping for later.  I let the colors of the spruce and hemlock suggest whether they want red ribbon, holly berries, pale dried grasses, or a glittery band of stars.
       My friend worried that the stuff on her leaner wreath would blow away.
       Peter, whose wreath was enormous, said, "That's what's supposed to happen."
       The world is windy.  Dried grasses or blooms fall off, like memories or extraneous facts.  But the green circle holds for a while.

For me, it's now time to focus less on the accessories, and more on nurturing that inner green circle.

And speaking of inner circles, Buffy Silverman is waiting to welcome you to the Poetry Friday roundup.  Frankly, I don't know of a more supportive or welcoming bunch of people, so please do join us at Buffy's Blog.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Haiku Garden: Becky Shillington

I've had a blast participating in the merry madness of Susanna Leonard Hill's Holiday Writing Contest over the past week.  Out of 118 entries, fourteen have been chosen as finalists and the choice is now up to you!  Voting has commenced and will continue until Wednesday, December 18th, at 5:00pm EST.  Please cast your vote for whichever story makes your jolly heart jingle. 

As for myself, I've enjoyed aspects of each and every entry (yes, all 118), but now feel quite ready to take a break from Santas and sleighs, reindeer, elves, and all varieties of mishaps, mix-ups, and mayhem.  Like a breath of fresh air, Becky Shillington joins me in the Haiku Garden today to share her own gift of the season.  Not the kind that is unwrapped in a flurry of excitement, but the kind of seasonal gift only Mother Nature can provide-- the kind that unwraps itself, slowly, over time, and belongs to anyone and everyone who stops to relish the moment.

Winter Silhouette

 Bare branches reach up,
Fingers brushing a blue sky
So bright that I squint.
(c) 2013 Becky Shillington. All rights reserved.

As a writer of picture books, chapter books, and poetry; a former third grade teacher; and an active mother of twins; Becky's personal life mirrors these branches, reaching out to those in her immediate and extended communities.  If you visit her blog, Tapestry of Words, one of the first things you'll notice is all the resources she generously shares with fellow writers and readers of all ages.  But I especially admire the fact that she frequently volunteers in her boys' classrooms, sharing her love of poetry with children and adults who recognize the benefit of watching the world unfold.  She describes her life as "a tapestry of love, laughter, and southern comfort." I, for one, am grateful that she chooses to share these qualities with the rest of us.

In the midst of the craziest month of the year, thank you, Becky, for stopping by the Haiku Garden; and for encouraging the world to slow down, if only for a few moments, so that I could stop, breathe, and enjoy today's little ditty. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Flight Before Christmas

Ready or not, the holiday season is upon us.  Are you a thriver or a surviver?  I like to complain about Christmas craziness as much as the next person, but truth be told, I love this season of joyful chaos: the twinkling lights, the holiday music that drives my husband crazy, my children's effervescence, spending time with family and friends, and the foundation of love and generosity that underlies it all.

Oh, and did I mention the 3rd Annual Holiday Writing Contest, sponsored by Susanna Leonard Hill?  Now there's some jolly good fun to ring in the season!  The rules: write a children's story about a Holiday Mishap, mix-up, miscommunication, mistake, or potential disaster (a la Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer).  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words.

Be sure to stop by Susanna's blog, Something for Everyone in the World of Children's Books, to peruse all of the entries.  After finalists have been selected, voting will take place starting December 16th, and winners announced on Thursday, December 19th.

I hope you enjoy reading my (330 word) entry as much as I enjoyed writing it!


‘Twas a week before Christmas and all was not well.
While out on a test flight, the sleigh hit a swell.
An icy cold blast took St. Nick by surprise
and sent him careening through blustery skies.
Tossed this-a-way, that-a-way, capsized, upended,
a thought flashed before him as Santa descended:
What good are warm boots and a snazzy red suit,
if what you don’t have is a good parachute?

He called to his reindeer (though none were in sight),
“Come Dasher! Come Dancer!  Be swift in your flight!
Come Prancer and Vixen!  Come Comet and Cupid!”
But none of them came, and poor Santa felt stupid.
Through clouds of whipped cream, he kerplopped like a cherry;
his jolly demeanor, now somewhat less merry.
With huge, booming voice he exclaimed,

Unaware, until then, of the ill-fated flight,
the elves all looked up with their jaws dropped in fright.
Could it be?  Yes, it was!  Old St. Nick in free fall!
Those quick-witted elves wasted no time at all.
They worked as a team, without missing a beat,
to pile up snow, oh, at least fifty feet.

Would Santa Claus notice with everything white?
He needed a map he could read from great height.
So the elves in their hats of bright red and bright green
encircled the mound to make sure it was seen—
the red hats on one side, the green on the other.
At first they formed one word, and then came another:
the reds on the left side spelled L-A-N-D;
on the right were the green hats with H-E-R-E.

While Santa still dropped like a streak through the sky,
he saw this and gave a most gratified sigh.
He aimed, best he could, for the elves’ snowy mound
that cushioned his fall when, at last, he hit ground.
Nothing came close to the love Santa felt…
with a smile he said, “Guess I need a seat belt.”

© 2013 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.

Poetry Friday friends, there's more fun to be had just around the bend!  Please join our round-up host, Tabatha Yeatts, at The Opposite of Indifference.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cyber Seduction

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of hosting Linda Baie in Limerick Alley.  With grace and gentleness, she bid a final farewell to autumn.  If you missed it, please take a moment to read and enjoy.

Winter is now upon us... though some of us more than others.  In Florida, we rely on indicators other than fallen leaves and plunging temperatures.  Things like the 24-hour Christmas radio stations; the store displays of holiday merchandise; the jam-packed schedule of parties, field trips, and activities; and my personal favorite (ahem), my ever-expanding email inbox.  My box runneth over with junk advertisements for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all manner of fabricated pre-holiday cheer.  My index finger is weak from clicking unsubscribe, and still the onslaught continues.  Who needs snow when you have an avalanche of spam to shovel?

Which brings me to today's little ditty: my response to that bottomless pit of paparazzi advertising.


It all began
with cookies. Now
and then, you popped up
unexpectedly.   It was cute,
you were sweet, and before long
you fell into step with my digital footprint.
Just a fling, I told myself, but you wanted more:
my time, attention, undying devotion, a credit card number
and personal security code.  And then it happened.  Black Friday.
It was late. There on my lap in the bedroom, aura glowing, you
told me I was glamorous, well-to-do, elite, and that XL or XS
didn’t matter. “2-for-1,” you said, “a limited-time offer.”
So I gave you my IP address, my credit card, the
works.  Who could resist those promises,
now as empty as my bank account? 
For a time I thought we clicked,
but now I realize I did all
the clicking. And what
once was 2-for-1,
is now just me,
50% off.

May your month be merry, your shopping simple, and may the beauty of the season surround you.  You can start now.  Please join hostess Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge, as she celebrates the gifts of Poetry Friday.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Limerick Alley: Linda Baie
I've never been one for goodbyes.  
No parties, no fanfare.  
I'd rather slip away quietly, fade-out...and...cut.  
That's a wrap. 

You would think goodbyes would get easier with age and practice, but for me, they've become more difficult.  Time has become less infinite, more precious, giving me pause before moving on.

That's why I'm especially grateful for generous souls like Linda Baie, who bring attention to these passages of time--the ends and the beginnings--in a manner that comforts rather than alarms.  Linda is driven by many passions, including reading, writing, teaching, learning, living, and loving; all of which shine through in her poetry and on her blog, TeacherDance.

So delighted to welcome you to Limerick Alley, Linda!

By way of introduction to today's little ditty, Linda shared with me that she has relied on autumn as the source of inspiration for many poems this year, including her own (like this one and this one) and those written by others as well.  Now that December has arrived, she says, "it's time to say farewell to our autumn ideas."  Sigh.  I guess I'm ready if you are.

          It's goodbye to the season named fall.
          After fulsome praise -- now time for all
          yellows, oranges, and reds
          to crunch into their beds.
          Let leaves take their final curtain call.

          (c) 2013 Linda Baie. All rights reserved.

Autumn into Winter, by Sabine Rich (c) 2011

If you would like to have a limerick featured here in the future, please contact me at Michelle (at) MichelleHBarnes (dot) com, or by commenting below.

leaf-in-ice02.jpg, photograph by Nancy Ward (c) 2005