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Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday is

Oh, wow.  I wasn't sure of what I'd write today, and had just started writing the title to my post when the phone rang.  I stopped at "Friday is", and answered the phone.

It was one of my brothers. Now I have something to write about.

On Wednesday he was attacked by a pit bull when he was out jogging.  
He sustained multiple bites up his legs, requiring stitches in his ankle by the Achilles tendon.  He won't be jogging for a bit.  
The dog is in quarantine and then will most likely be put down.  The dog came tearing out of a house at him.  The owners tried to stop the dog and chase it off, but it circled him and came back, attacking four times. My brother was finally able to get himself into an enclosed porch and relative safety.

Scary.  He and his wife had been out jogging together, but his wife had stopped jogging just before reaching that house and headed back home.  He jogged on a bit farther, before turning around.  It was on his return trip past the house when the pit bull attacked.

Six weeks prior to this, the dog had attacked someone, but no charges were filed - a family member perhaps?  The dog should have been taken care of then, but it wasn't.

There are lots of kids that play outside in that neighborhood and a home with older people who go out with walkers.  Was this a blessing in disguise?  I think so.

My brother was able to withstand the attack and get himself to safety.  Yes, he was badly hurt, but almost anyone else would have been killed that day.  Or another day in the near future.  It comes so close on the heels (June 6) of a child being killed in Maine by a pit bull.

We need responsible dog owners.  We need people to realize that first and foremost a dog is a dog, not a human, not a toy, not a baby... and, as such, it has instincts.  Even when you try to train and domesticate the "fire" out of them, it is still there.  They are a dog.


They wag,
they run,
they sniff,
they fetch,
they slobber
on your toes;
But always be
aware that
they have
nobody knows.

by Donna JT Smith, June 17, 2016

Poetry Friday offerings are being hosted today by Carol at Carol's Corner.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Bike Week in Laconia

Saturday was a long day of driving in the car behind my two of my favorite people in the world.  If my daughter were there, I'd have to say my three favorite people, but she wasn't there this day.

I spent the day driving while my husband and son each rode their motorcycles up to Laconia, NH, for Bike Week at Weirs Beach. 
Lots of bikes line the streets everywhere this week.
Since my husband hasn't been riding long, after our very long break from biking, he wasn't comfortable yet on his new bike to take a passenger.   So I followed in the "support vehicle".  It ended up being a very nice thing for me, as it was never sunny, and started raining for the trip back home.  I got to stay warm and dry, while the guys braved the elements.  We stopped frequently for cups of coffee, and at one stop I bought them dry gloves to go with their coffee!  Boots and socks would have to wait until we got home, though I contemplated having them pour the water out of their boots and drying them at the gas station hand dryers.
It was a fun day of food, music and shops carrying all sorts of motorcycle paraphernalia.
Check out the two mopeds in the center - decked out like Harleys!
I don't know if I'll ever ride my own bike up there or not.  I enjoy being a passenger.  I remember that took a while getting used to also, so who knows?
I think we are driving up again this Saturday to check out another section of the festivities.  Hopefully the weather will be better!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Bold New Learnings

It's Poetry Friday, and I have a couple of thoughts today on my new learnings.  It is another uncomfortable zone to put myself in.  BOLD.  Bold is not necessarily "comfortable"!  As a matter of fact, it is mostly UNcomfortable.  I am outside of my comfort zone lately - definitely in my UN-Comfort Zone.  It is something that is good for us to do, especially as teachers, I think.  It puts you more in tune with the students' zones of comfort and uncomfort...?  Perhaps that is the "Discomfort Zone"?

New Learnings

So many things to think of,
So many things to do,
So much to be aware of,
So much I never knew!

Someday it won't seem novel,
Someday it won't feel strange,
Somehow it will come natural,
Somehow it all will change!
by Donna JT Smith

I have barely had the time (and definitely ran out of energy) for posting this week.  After last Thursday's departure from my motorcycle riding class... I was too slow and holding back the rest of the class of men who had ridden motorcycles before.  Who knew the basic class would not be to learn how to ride a motorcycle?  It said I would learn how to... but I guess if everyone else already knows, then that is the baseline.  And I was too far below it.  Of course I was disappointed.  I haven't ever been asked to leave anywhere.  I have never really failed at things I've attempted.  So this was crushing.  I cried all the way home.  Two hours.

But when I got home, my son and husband were there to support me.  They encouraged me and immediately got my Burgman out of the garage and drove it to a parking lot.  There they had me practice starting and stopping, turning and balancing.  It was a redeeming exercise.  It was really quite like the old saying about getting back on the horse after a fall.  I hadn't fallen off my horse, but I'd been told that I wouldn't be able to ride.  So I basically had fallen and wasn't confident in my abilities at all!

I re-enrolled in another class at the end of the month at a different school.  Then I realized, my Burgman is an automatic, so practicing on it for long, was going to only help with my fear of speed and get me some turning practice.  I still wouldn't be ready for clutch, brake, throttle coordination to go with that.  The grips on the Burgman are both brakes and your feet have no jobs to do except hold the bike up when you come to a stop.  It's like moving from an automatic to a manual shift car.  Just because you can drive an automatic doesn't mean you can drive a manual.

Sooooo - I needed a manual motorcycle to learn on.  And that is just what we did.  I searched Craig's list one more time, and came up with this:
2004 Yamaha 250
We picked it up the next day after insurance and registration were all set.  My son drove it home after work, and he IMMEDIATELY spent about an hour with me at an empty parking lot, getting me comfortable on this bike!  Phew.  I can't tell you how nervous and anxious I was... and still am!  I go back and forth with feeling like "I can do this." to "What am I thinking?"!

I am a little more comfortable than the first day.  I still don't know if I will ever be totally "at one with the bike", but it is still too early to tell.  When my husband or son talk about taking it on the road when I get my license, I start to sweat and want to get rid of the bike just so they will stop mentioning it!  I'm so far from that it seems.  I don't seem like it to them for some reason.  Maybe because they are not inside my head listening to me do the checklist of things I want to remember.  "hand on brake, hand on clutch, ignition on, red engine button on button, push start engine button, press shifter (left foot) to get into first gear, release hand brake, slowly release clutch, start rolling, feet up, don't touch the brake pedal or shifter when you put your feet up...look up, not down".   I'm getting a stomach ache just writing this down.  And yet, it is becoming quicker and more automatic all the time.

If you don't ride a motorcycle, then going through the checklist is just a bunch of words.  When I think about it, it is like reading.  When you come to a word you don't know as a first grader, and we put the list of strategies in front of them:
Look at the first letter, get your mouth ready, look through the rest of the word, skip it, go back, think of the meaning, listen to yourself as you read... It is a confusing jumble of things to do when they are reading, but pretty soon it is all happening without them even being aware that they are doing it.
Pretty soon they are just reading. Pretty soon they are just writing.  Pretty soon they are blowing a bubble, whistling, swimming, diving, dancing, painting, hitting the ball...
And it seems like they always have been doing it to them and even us.

I'm looking forward to the day when I don't overthink it, when it feels like I've always been doing this!  And if that day never comes for me... well at least I can say I tried it, did it, and decided not to do it! 
Look, I'm riding!

I once became a reader -
Words tumbled from my tongue;
I once became a writer -
With pencil words were sung.

I learned to dance and whistle,
I swam and gulped at air;
I swung and hit a baseball
No matter foul or fair!

Each day I keep on learning,
There's time for one more lesson;
Each day that I am breathing
Is time for one more blessing.

by Donna JT Smith

Please visit other Poetry Friday contributors!  Head to Carol's place at Beyond Literacy Link There's lots to learn out there!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Watercolor Averages

On Friday, Jama asked why she never knew that I was a painter.
Well, there's a reason for that.
I'm a secret painter!  I've always loved to draw, but haven't done it often.

I've actually recently begun painting with watercolors.  I think I can safely say that.  About 30 or more years ago, I took one class in watercolor and I was not very good at it.  It's really something you need to keep doing to get a real feel for the paints.  So I stopped and resumed life instead of doing another painting, I had kids.  And we raised horses.  And moved.  And then I retired and thought, "Why not try that watercolor stuff again?  You don't have to eat on a schedule anymore.  There are no horses waiting for supper.  No kids waiting to be picked up at soccer practice." 
One day out driving, I noticed a sign by a library saying they were doing watercolor classes on Wednesday mornings.  It was only hour away from home, which may seem far to you, but everything is about an hour away from home (or more) in Maine. I signed up and went for a couple of months.  It was a wonderful time of paint and coffee and talk - very informal, not pushy, lots of trial and error and error and praise for good attempts and minor successes.  It was a wonderful time and maybe I should go again.  It stopped for a bit in winter, and I haven't been back.  It's an hour away, and I did one good painting.

I do a few really awful paintings and then one good one.  Then I stop for a while, frozen in fear that I cannot do it again.  And that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Of course you can't do it again if you never do it again.  But then again, you can't fail either, if stopping isn't failing, that is!  I regulate my success/failure rate that way I guess.  Or I think I do.  I don't really.  You have to swing and miss most of the time to bat a .300.  If you don't swing, you don't miss.  If you don't miss you don't get any score.

I do love all manner of creative expression.  As with most things in my life, I've just never become proficient at them.  I know a little about a lot of things.  Some things I do well, but most I do just at a moderately successful level.

Here's a chronological ordering of watercolors I've done that I am okay with right now.  I say right now, because, just as a child looks back at work they did when they were younger and thinks - "ewww!"  I have done that with work that I let percolate a bit.  "Ewww! How could I have thought that was good?"  And then pick apart all the bad things about it.

My Cow (I don't have a cow)

A Spark entry
This year's Christmas card
Ginger - a present for my husband
It is time to pick up the brushes again.  It was a long time coming and lots of experimentation and futzing about, but finally for Spark 29, I got my paints together and came up with my Journey to Iceland watercolor.

Journey to Iceland
Bravely, boldly.  And not too seriously!  Who cares what it looks like?  Right?  Just have fun.  You should try it.  You don't have to show anyone your work.  I just do it as a bit of validation (maybe?) for myself.  Or a bit of trying out "Bold", my olw for 2016. Good, bad or indifferent, I'm trying to make things to be okay in their own right.  A beautiful attempt, maybe not a beautiful conclusion... but beauty in the boldness!  Oooh,  now there's a title for a poem... "Beauty in the Boldness".  Perhaps a theme.  Let me mull this one over.  I think I have something percolating.  Bye!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Spark 29

Today for Poetry Friday, I am merely going to point you in a direction....
Spark 29, organized by Amy Souza, is now being uploaded item by item on the GetSparked website.  Writers and artists are paired and then given 10 days to respond to a work that they are given by their partners.  I participated for this session as both artist and writer and was paired up with Alyscia Cunningham, who also signed up as artist and writer.  Alyscia sent me a piece of writing, called "Journey to Iceland".  I did a watercolor as a response to it.   And she sent me a photograph, to which I responded with a poem.  The poem may be found here and the watercolor with her story is here.
Shortly Alyscia will post my writing with her artistic interpretation, and my art/photograph with her written response.  Keep checking for more pairings at GetSparked.org, and consider joining in for Spark 30!
Thanks Jone for hosting today!  There are more links to poetry on her website "Check It Out"!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Are You Ready for This?

If you joined me last Tuesday here, you saw that my husband had bought a Harley Davidson Sportster, white and shiny, for me to join him on to tool around the countryside... my son also got himself a big ol' bike, sharp and black!
We are going to Laconia for Bike Week opening on Saturday, June 11.  I would be the passenger on the new saddle we bought for my husband's bike.
But then suddenly these two guys started prodding me to get my own bike - that I'd really enjoy driving instead of being a passenger.  It's not like this is the first time my husband's mentioned it.  But somehow with the two of them coaxing me... well... I am now the proud owner of a blue Suzuki Burgman.  It is a motorcycle size scooter, with automatic transmission.  It's much easier to get on and off this, since you don't have to straddle the bike.  It can go highway speeds and great distances comfortably.  It has a 400cc engine, so it is considered a motorcycle though you sit on it as you would a scooter.
Because the engine is large and it is a motorcycle, I need a motorcycle license to drive it.  I must have two days of motorcycle training.  The training sessions are not that easy to find, since Maine just in May changed the laws and will not issue permits any more.  Classes are backed up into July and mostly in August.  However, after making many searches on the Internet, and a few phone calls, I was fortunate enough to find a "no show" for this week!  So now it is looking like I may just be able to ride into Laconia Bike Week under my own power!  It's just over a two hour drive - since I'll need some breaks (not brakes) probably, it will be closer to three hours, I'm sure!
I got my temporary vanity plate plate for my blue bike.  "DAISY".  Daisy was the name of my blue Schwinn bike when I was young - my pretend horse for a number of years.  I think it is a fitting name for my new blue Suzuki bike!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Spark Start

Today is the day I submitted my inspiration pieces to my partner for the Spark 29 challenge that Amy Souza hosts.  Both my partner Alyscia Cunningham and I have decided to participate as Artist and Writer.  So early this morning she sent me a photograph and an excerpt from a written piece so that in the next ten days I could respond to each.

When I saw the photograph, a phrase came immediately to mind and I began the poem just as soon as I zipped my two files off to her - one poem and a photo.  On June 5 we will reveal to each other what we have produced from our inspiration pieces.

Unless something else occurs to me, I have finished the written piece.  It was just there for me, so I wrote the whole thing in one sitting (even though I was supposed to be writing something else entirely - as I am supposed to be doing even now!)

Now for the hard part.  The art.  I know I can take a picture pretty easily for this one.  Well, I think I can anyway.  But I was thinking I might want to do a watercolor instead.  I have not done much watercolor lately.  I need to do that.  Then again - maybe it should be something else entirely.  Not sure what.  I will let that stew a bit longer.

A Writer's Path

I'm writing along
And humming a song,
I have to take care not to trip.
My words tumble out
And wander about;
The words are all doing a flip,
Omitting some there
Resitting them where
They're sensible, with the right clip;
Yes, that is the way
All writers convey
Their story, and end with a quip.

Donna JT Smith

Not a great poem, but one nonetheless... and it didn't take a long time to write.  That is the plus.  That is the poem's finer quality.  I will write something good some other day when I don't have a million things to do.  I was going to say bazillion, but I don't have THAT many things to do!  No one does.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Bike

Here it is!  My husband and son went to look at it last night and bought it.  It has lots of extras and is very loud!  And shiny.  It is a well kept bike, and we are the proud new owners of a 2004 Harley Davidson 1200 Custom Sportster, pearl white.
Here's my husband on the bike for the trip home.  If you look closely you can see his beard peeking out from under the helmet... no, that is not a white shirt!

Now I need to get a helmet.  The bike needs a change of seat so I can join him on rides, and I need a new jacket.  Discovered the ones we have, although they fit, are just a bit too heavy for my back just yet.  We also need some bags for souvenirs and snacks, and a windshield to keep the bugs out of our teeth and the wind from freezing us solid on the cool evenings.

I'll get a picture of me when I'm all ready to roll!

Ready to roll and ride the roads
Back to our earlier days
Yearning to grasp a little more time
Before we're put out to graze!

HA!  I knew there'd be a poem in it somewhere.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bold and New

Here's the thing.  I have now finally officially lost 35 pounds.  I am continuing to lose weight slowly but surely.  I finally weigh less than my husband, which is like SO exciting!

I am boldly starting more physical therapy to further strengthen my core and lower back.  I can now easily walk a mile - fairly briskly and not get winded or have to stop and stretch my back muscles. 

And here is a secret that is even more exciting: I can now fit into my old leather motorcycle jacket!   You didn't think I owned one, did you?
So, BOLDLY, we are looking at a "new" used Harley on Monday!  We are going "on the road again"!  My husband has always wanted a Harley Davidson, and this will be a dream-come-true for him.  Feeling this good has also been a "dream-come-true" for me!

We'll need new helmets.  Ours have long ago dried out, I'm sure.  It's been a LONG time since we rode and helmets should be replaced periodically to be safest.  We will also get a new headset, so we can talk to each other as we cruise along the back roads. 

Yes, I hear you.  Of course, we will be careful!  We always have been. I know that isn't always the issue with riding a motorcycle.  There are always deer, dogs and drivers who aren't watching out for your best interests.  But that's how life always is.   I'm always a passenger on our treks, but I still love the openness, the smells and sights from the motorcycle.  Stopping to smell the roses is done best on a bike.

We have mostly toured Nova Scotia by motorcycle where we own a piece of bold oceanfront property.  I would like to take the ferry up and see the land and all of the Province again.  I would like to tour the state and maybe some adjacent states.

I'll post a picture when we finally get it all together... bike, helmet, gloves, intercom, and maybe even a new jacket ...because this jacket is just fitting, and it could be too large for me in a little while... (hope, hope!)

From a Motorcycle

Before the view,
The sweet savor
of wild roses
is visor-captured;

The bouquet
lingers longer
than the vision.

Donna JT Smith

And this is what I like about riding.  You smell the deliciousness of new mown hay, of flowers, and of ocean before you see them; and the delicious, delightful smells remain helmet-bound even when the vision has passed.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Summer Poems

I have an awesome poem by a student to share with you today.  I signed up to receive a postcard from Jone MacCulloch‘s Silver Star Poetry Project this spring, and my postcard with it's illustrated poem arrived just over a week ago.  It is by Lotus B. in fifth grade.
Lotus sent me a Diamante that started with Summer and its hot, dry days of time spent on the beach relaxing, then meandering to Fall with the browning and decaying of all that was green.  Lotus illustrated the postcard poem with some enticing icons of summer!  It makes me excited to get started on the summer season, though I will have to forego the ice cream cones...
Wait... I think I see me lounging on the beach right there under that big beach umbrella!

This project is such a lot of fun for the recipients of these poems, and I have a feeling, just reading and looking at the postcards posted on blogs so far, that the students are enjoying this sharing, too!

Let the Summer Begin!

Summer can start now
I have my flip flops;
The sun can get hot cause
I've got my tank tops.

The grill has been wheeled out;
It's barbecue time -
The breeze is just right
To awake the wind chime.

The flowers can bloom
Where I planted seeds,
And before you know it
I'll be out pulling weeds.

The grass will need mowing,
I'll get a sun burn,
The mosquitoes will gather
To each take a turn.

The fan will be whirling,
The ice cubes will clink,
And I will need plenty
Of cold things to drink.

Could we just skip summer?
There's sweat on my brow.
It's looking much sweeter
To fall ahead now.

Donna JT Smith, 2016

PS: I'm not a fan of hot weather.  Can you tell?
Happy Poetry Friday, all!  Now go visit the other poet lovers.  They may be found at Reflections on the Teche where Margaret Simon is hosting this week.