We have watched the world change since March, 2020. It has been quite a journey to arrive at today’s Winter Solstice: longest night, shortest day and reflections of 2021.
Looking out the window at the shimmering snow of winter I notice the sky painted in pinks and blues of cotton candy. A few birds flit around near the top of trees that stand tall and barren. There is a squirrel or two scampering about, competing for the little food left in the bird feeder. Doves wander around the ground underneath, pecking at the dropped seeds.
As I sit here in my kitchen in the stillness of the season, sipping my first cup of coffee, my mind relaxes enough to wonder. I think about a lot of things: nature, the birds, survival, my family, friends, people in need of help. I think about prayers, kind words, or gifts I can send to others to comfort them, or on the other hand celebrate them. I have all the worries of a wife, mother, auntie, grandmother, sister, and daughter – will my family be safe, healthy, happy? How about their jobs? Like you, there is so much that weighs on me. But I have faith that shares that burden with me. I have grown in my faith throughout the pandemic. Faith has allowed me to persevere.
Being an Author/Educator
Another part of my life to reflect on is my current profession – being an author. This path has taken a bit of a turn this year, circling back to being an active educator. I retired three years ago (Wow, when I say that I find that hard to believe!) and this year I’ve been asked to revisit some best practices of teaching in regards to children’s literature. Authors and publishers have hired me to create educator guides – I’ve been blessed with this opportunity. I get to read books and write questions that help teachers and students in the classroom. Many incredible stories from diverse perspectives were published this past year. I’m excited to engage young minds again. It warms my heart to hear that my work is valued by others. I’ve been thrilled to develop these discussion guides for all of you – thank you for thinking of me!
Something else happened this year that I didn’t see coming – my name was offered for a position, and after some investigation and hesitation, I applied. To my surprise, I was elected as a Board Member of the Children’s Literature Assembly (CLA), which is associated with the National Council of the Teachers of English or NCTE. For the last 7-10 years or so of my teaching career, I was a member of NCTE. This incredible organization of dedicated teachers inspired me try new strategies year after year. I’m greatly honored by this board announcement and look forward to sharing my love of children’s literature in the future. Congratulations to the other two new Board members as well! Mary Lee Hahn and Sara K. Sterner, I look forward to working with you.
Lastly, I’d like to share what’s been happening with my writing. As you may know, my first book took me 20 years of research and writing before it was published. The latest printing has a new addition to the cover – the IPPY gold seal.
I thought writing my second (third, fourth, etc.) books would be a little easier, but as a lifelong learner, I’m gaining more knowledge about the craft of writing for children each year. And connecting with other children’s authors is an added benefit.
The subject of my work-in-progress is Lakota elder Marcella LeBeau and I am so grateful we had the last five years to talk about everything in regards to her life. I met Marcella when I began writing SIOUX CODE TALKERS. She had a family member who was part of the same Lakota code talker group as my great-uncle John Bear King. Marcella entered my life quietly and became quite a force as a mentor who guided me. I know she was a mentor and role model for many people in her lifetime, including her large and loving family, her Tióšpaye. Recently, an ancestry connection confirmed that we are actually related. I am very happy to find that out! Marcella finished her revision notes on the last few chapters of my manuscript just before she passed away in November at 102 years old. I’ve been heartbroken since and miss her terribly. I’m sad that she won’t get to see her story as a published book, but I’m really glad she had a chance to read the whole manuscript from beginning to end. I’ve made a decision to step away from writing for a few weeks.
This short hiatus is allowing me to care for my mom right now as she recovers from some surgery. And I get to focus on Christmas and spending time with my family. We missed the holidays last year with our children. COVID and the pandemic kept us apart from our daughters, sons and DILs, and grandkids. We did eventually get to hug them all in person in October/November. What a great gift – And thank God for virtual visits!
Well, that was the long reflection.
The short version is: Many bumps in the road occurred in 2021, but so many amazing things happened this year too! And, as I watch the squirrels and birds outside my window compete for the few morsals left in the bird feeder…it makes me realize some things are competing with my writing time. Something will have to climb to the top to “win,” and it’s up to me to make the decision. So when I return to writing every day in a few weeks, I’d like to focus on my work-in-progress only. I have other author goals to accomplish in addition to final revisions. I have a few educator guide deadlines to meet. And I will have to make time for my other responsibilities to RACWI and CLA. That means, my blog and newsletter will be on hiatus until (most likely) spring time.
Longer and Sunny Days ahead in 2022!
Merry Christmas and see you next year