Category Archive: Writing

In-home childcare provider achieves a 5-star rating

Childcare provider Dana Smith leads a dance session.

By Alicia Barnes
MSU School of Human Sciences

MISSISSIPPI STATE – Nine years after starting her own business, Dana Smith is living her dream.

As a former kindergarten teacher and librarian in Tennessee, Smith combined her love of education with her business goals and began a small childcare program in her home. After relocating to Olive Branch, she furthered her goals by opening Busy Bundles of Joy Learning Center, an in-home family childcare program that was recently certified as one of the finest in the state.

“I strive to provide the best professional care to my parents and children,” she said. “This certification challenged me to go higher not only with the requirements of the five-star, but also furthering my education in childcare.”

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That famous Mississippi Faulkner “quote”


Exhibit A: To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi. – William Faulkner

When I saw that quote on a girl’s shirt in yoga last week, I had a hard time believing that when taken in context, Faulkner was saying something positive or slogan worthy about the state where he famously set his stories on dysfunctional families and individuals trapped by poverty, ignorance, racism, sexism, mental illness, or just plain evil. So I went in search of the quote’s context, I expected to find that Faulkner wasn’t bragging on the richness of life in Mississippi, but instead making sober commentary, unfit for posters, billboards, pillows, and Pinterest walls.

After an hour of searching, I found nothing. I contacted friends who began their own searches and who contacted their own friends who all found nothing. Continue Reading »


Parents can prevent deadly heatstroke

A mirror allows parents to see a child in a backwards facing carseat.

By Alicia Barnes
School of Human Sciences

MISSISSIPPI STATE – Distractions, fatigue and stress have contributed to the vehicular heatstroke deaths of an estimated 610 children over the past 21 years.

With fatalities occurring in the spring, summer, and fall every year, the Mississippi Child Care Resource and Referral Network at the Mississippi State University Extension Service wants parents and caregivers to be aware of the danger of children being left in vehicles.

While some children are injured playing inside unlocked cars, most fatal accidents happen when a parent or caregiver who does not normally take the child to childcare inadvertently leaves him or her inside the vehicle.

“Structure is important for children and adults. When you do a task day after day, like driving to work, those steps become automatic. That is why a change in routine can be dangerous,” Melissa Tenhet, a project director for the MSCCR&R Network said.

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My current full-time gig

While writing grants and promotional materials may not be exactly what I hope to do with my life, my current job is the best I’ve had in terms of both management and program quality. I recently shot some photos and wrote this feature story to build awareness for the program to help it expand.

MSU program improves childcare quality

Chloe Gray, 4, a student at Train up a Child Christian Learning Center in Clinton, takes a leap during physical development activities as part of the Nurturing Homes Initiative, an MSU Extension Service and Mississippi Department of Human Services project.

If home is where the heart is, then it’s no wonder that 54 percent of Mississippi children attend unlicensed home childcare programs.

Known by a variety of names, these businesses whether called “family childcare,” “in-home childcare,” or “family home care,” are places where caregivers open their homes to create safe learning environments. As part of the Mississippi State University Extension Service, the Nurturing Homes Initiative (NHI) partners with these businesses to increase the quality of care.

As the only employees of their own small business, home care providers often operate with limited access to materials that encourage emotional, social, physical, and intellectual growth in children. To fill that void, the Mississippi Department of Human Services, Division of Early Childhood Care and Development, funds NHI to teach best practices and provide supplies.

NHI has worked with over 1,200 in-home child caregivers to improve learning opportunities for over 6,000 children. By meeting with providers in their homes, NHI field technicians provide one-on-one, hands-on mentoring by reviewing lesson materials, discussing challenges and concerns, and modeling age-appropriate activities. While the state requires child caregivers at licensed centers to earn 15 hours of staff development each year, home providers have no state-mandated education requirements and can face challenges accessing education. Continue Reading »


I still don’t find Red Delicious Apples to be delicious

My mom scanned this and sent it to me. It’s one of my earliest written stories.

Age 9/ 4th grade

The text:

Oct 5, 1992

It was the most juiciest apple in the whole wide world. It was twice as big as the school. It reached up to the cloud. But it was red. I hate red apples. I hate there skin. I hate there flavor they don’t even have a flavor. But it was so nice and big and juicies and round and real fat and shining. Boy did it look good. Then I woke up it was just a dream. I looked at my mom she was in apple and red too. I looked at my dad is was an apple too and he was shaving his rotten spots. My bother couldn’t have c[h]anged he woke up later than I did thats usual then I seen him he was an apple too! Even redder than my parents. I screamed than I really woke up. It was all just a dream. I went to the kitchen and ate an apple. A big green apple.


Please, Hammer, don’t hurt em

April Poem a Day continues

For today’s prompt, write a big picture poem. I know these can be difficult to write, because they cover big ideas or emotions or concepts.

Mississippi Sunday, 1990

When his hand grabbed theirs,
they in shock of the contrast crossed
into the church that they and their parents
and their grandparents and neighbors
had never thought to see until he pressed
them into cushioned seats, two brown boys,
their backs facing emptying pews,
as mothers and children went to wait in the car
and fathers and deacons erased the air
around the preacher as they pointed
trembling fingers at their faces,
dark and wet with fear.


That poem is based on a story from my friend’s childhood. Seems like churches should be the least segregated places. I’d love to talk to the boys who this happened to and hear about their memories of this day.


PAD 12, 13, & 14

Just got back from a work trip to Jackson. Here are the three latest poems I know you’ve been waiting for. I’m putting them in order of my fav:


For today’s prompt, write a poem that remembers an old relationship. This relationship does not have to be romantic.


A fly
with its wings
against the tape
can move
just not
it wants
to be.

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The nagging of uncertainty

Happy St. Patty’s!

Though I’m wearing green, I’m not quite in the green yet as my latest ING blog explains.

The prompt: Is there a single event that turned retirement from a far-off to-do into a real, stark reality? We asked our Customer Bloggers to weigh in. Here’s what Alicia, a 27-year old Mississippian, had to say.

Ever get about halfway down the road and suddenly can’t remember if you locked the door?

That feeling of uncertainty.

The feeling of if I didn’t lock it, what are the chances that of today of all days someone will break in, and hey if they’re coming today, they’ll just break in whether my door is locked or unlocked, and maybe since my door might be unlocked, they’ll just walk in instead of breaking a window I’ll have to replace.

Yet before I can take that right turn to work, I turn around because regardless of the chances of someone actually getting in, I don’t want to think about my door being unlocked all day, making it easier to get robbed.

That nagging moment between the uncertainty of wondering if I locked my door and the decision to turn around: that’s my current relationship with retirement. Yes, it’s important. Yes, I know I should be actively contributing. Yes, I know it’s for my safety and ease of mind, but really I just want keep driving down the road and worry about it later.

You can read the rest at

Ode to a Glass Slipper

Step softly in the grass, light one.
The pebbles and dips in the sidewalk could scuff your heels
and cloud the transparent shine of your stride.

Deliberate and moderate, the best choice when you can’t stay where you are,
a little cinder girl, sweeping up someone else’s messes and claiming them for your own.

* Appeared in Edgz 17. (2010): 66.

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