Thursday, January 31, 2013

Battle Creek elementary brings the community to school

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
January 31, 2013

(Photo by Erik Holladay,

At Prairieview Elementary in Battle Creek, Michigan, a program called Developing the Community helps people and organizations make the connections students need for better lives and more learning. Zinta Aistars has the story of one school's holistic approach to education. 

At first approach, Prairieview Elementary School in Battle Creek is like most any other elementary school. Walk up the sidewalk to the main door, and the chatter and laughter of children resound from the playground at right. Inside the 1930s building, bells ring, and the long tiled hallways suddenly fill with the clatter of steps, giggles and banter, whoops, and happy hollers. Teachers emerge from classrooms and herd the children into neat lines, instilling order.
"Michigan's governor Snyder attended this school," Don Hoaglin says with a smile. He's the principal of Prairieview Elementary. He rushes from a meeting with a group of parents to talk to a teacher about a child making something of a ruckus down the hall, and back to his office again to take a moment to talk. 
"That child you hear shouting," he says, nodding toward the hallway outside his office door, "could be a case of ..."


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Latvian couple's love story is picture perfect

by Sherry Kuyt
Advance Newspapers: Penasee Globe
January 24, 2013

Reporter Sherry Kuyt interviewing Viestarts Aistars at Daily Brews Cafe in Wayland, Michigan

An article appeared in Penasee Globe about my parents, Velta and Viestarts Aistars, this week, in part about my father's art exhibit currently on exhibit at Daily Brews Cafe in Wayland, Michigan, but also in celebration of the upcoming Valentine's Day. 

After years of marriage, wives sometimes complain that their husbands don't pay enough attention to them.

Viestarts Aistars pays attention.

He notices when his wife changes her hair style. He observes the rosy glow in her cheeks when she's been outdoors.

He could tell if she gained a couple of pounds, and would know exactly where they went.

He could even describe the color of the dress she wore to dinner last night, and whether the chain on her necklace was white or yellow gold.

And it's not just because it's his job......

Monday, January 21, 2013

Snow, snow and the snow, the snow

by Zinta Aistars

Snow today, snow and snow, and cold, bone chilling cold, a real Michigan winter, the one I've been missing. Bring it on. Oh bring it on.

The shiver, the shudder, the tingle, the jangle. Bring it on.

Winter, that season when I was born, squalling with hurrah, fist to the snow clouded sky, winter sun a pale day moon, misted in shimmer and silver glow, winter, that most astounding time, bring it on.

Snow in a swirl, snow sweeping over and over in rolling drifts and swooping up in waves against walls, turning the world under and over white and white and white and endless and infinite white.

At last. I celebrate.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Word Power at K

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Kalamazoo College's "Be Light"
January 2013

Jessica Farmer, left, and Amy Newday, right

Amy Newday, director of the Writing Center (Room 110 in Upjohn Library Commons) at Kalamazoo College, curls into the corner of the red couch and lifts a hand as if to punctuate her words, and says: “You WILL be judged.”

Yet it’s not Newday that will do the judging. She will tell it to you straight: it’s the world out there that will judge you, outside of Kalamazoo College (and sometimes in), with every résumé you send out, every cover letter, every corporate missive, every office memo, every report, and every proposal. Never mind what you hear about sticks and stones. It’s the words that carry power. 

“We don’t edit students’ papers at the Writing Center,” she says. “We help students determine how to succeed in the writing task at hand and work with them to develop the skills they need to succeed.”

Newday helps students at Kalamazoo College find power and meaning in their writing.  The philosophy of the center is that ...

READ THE FULL ARTICLE at Kalamazoo College's e-newsletter, BeLight. 

Jessica, left, and Amy, right

Hannah, left, and Amy, right

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Triple Love

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Kalamazoo College newsletter, BE LIGHT
January 15, 2013

Sam and Leigh Ann

This is a love story. A triple love story.

Yes, a growing and sometimes challenging triple love—between two Kalamazoo College graduates and the city of Detroit, between these two and their alma mater, and between these two: Leigh Ann Ulrey '11 and Sam Brennan '11.

Leigh Ann and Sam met as incoming freshmen. She was from Texas; he was from Grand Rapids, then Northville in his high school years, a suburban area west of Detroit. A country apart, but Leigh Ann and Sam connected at LandSea in Killarney, Canada, an opportunity that is part of the College’s first-year orientation program. They have been together, meeting challenges side-by-side, ever since.

It begins like this: "When I lived in Texas, I was looking at colleges somewhat nonchalantly, " said Leigh Ann. "Kalamazoo College kept sending postcards, and gave me a reason to take my search more seriously after I looked into what K had to offer, and that all started because I liked the funny name." 

On the basis of that funny name, or perhaps in spite of it, Leigh Ann found ...

READ THE FULL ARTICLE at Kalamazoo College's "Be Light," - how Leigh Ann and Sam fall in love with each other, with K College, and now, the supposedly doomed city of Detroit. 

Detroit, Michigan

Friday, January 11, 2013

I'm in the semifinals at Write Michigan!

My story, "Letting Go," was chosen from 600 entries to move up to the semifinals on January 11, 2013. Please read and give my story a vote if you think it worthy to move to the finals. You can vote once each week, up until January 31. Thank you!

Please visit to read and vote. 

Nearly 600 people from all over Michigan entered our inaugural writing competition. Entries in the 18-and-over and under-18 categories were judged during round one by West Michigan librarians and booksellers. 88 literary fussbudgets evaluated the stories in seven criteria, including characterization, plot, setting and passion.

We are now happy to turn over this delightful batch of exceptional stories to you! So now, friends, the vote is ON! Ten semifinalists in each of two categories were selected for a chance to win Readers' and Judges' Choice!

To read a very diverse selection of writing from very talented folks, or to simply exercise your judgmental nature, go to the Write Michigan Voting Page, read the top 10 entries in both categories and vote for up to 2 favorites a week, one from the adult and one from the youth categories. Make haste; polls close on January 31.

Winners will be announced on February 1.

Letting Go
By Zinta Aistars

Haven't we been through this before? Her leaving, me standing in the road. Counting the miles ahead of her and away from me. The miles a lengthening drone between us. 
A mother should understand this at the moment of birth: there will come the day that your child lifts floppy new wings, teeters at the edge of the suddenly cramped nest, and takes off. It can happen more than once. Anyone who doesn't understand this should never take on parenthood. 
I didn't run after her, I swear. I did not. I stood at the end of the driveway, watching the tail lights of her battered '92 Chevy glow fiery red, hand stuck out the window and waving, then the lights growing dim again as she pulled around the corner of our street and disappeared ....

READ THE FULL STORY (click and scroll UP) AT Write Michigan Voting Page and VOTE! Thank you!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Kalamazoo wine distributor's mission to save a great grape

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
January 10, 2013

Christine Skandis and her fine wines (Photo by Erik Holladay at

Lots of people want to save certain animals from being lost to the world. Christine Skandis wants to make sure certain delicate grapes survive. She tells Zinta Aistars about her business, Skandis Fine Wines.

Since 2001, Christine Skandis, the businesswoman behind Skandis Fine Wine, sometimes referred to as "nectar of the gods," has been bringing a grape that is thousands of years old down the mountain to satisfy the tastes of mortals. After all, why should only ancient gods enjoy such fine wines? 

She founded Skandis Fine Wines, LLC, an importer and distributor of fine wines, to help keep alive heirloom grapes that may otherwise have turned to vineyard dust by now. Generally unknown and grown in Italy in limited quantities, these delicate grape varietals such as Erbaluce, Aglianico, Negroamaro, Nero di Troia, Falanghina, Malvasia, Bombino, to name a few, risk being torn out of the vineyards and replaced by better known and therefore faster-selling grapes, such as Chardonnay and Cabernet, to sustain the economic need of the small communities that grow them.
"I started Skandis Fine Wines to preserve these 2,000-year-old heirloom grapes," says Skandis. A member of the Tasters Guild, a nationwide society of food and wine enthusiasts, she was frustrated "that everyone was always serving the same old wines. I wanted to ...."

To read the full article, visit Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media ... and prozit!