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All material on this website is © Donna JT Smith unless otherwise noted.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Spiny Pine


We have LOTS of trees on our 5+ acres, but this little one always catches my eye from our front window.  It's my weather tree, I guess.  I can see how deep the snow is, how thick the ice is, or how sunny the day is even, just by looking at this little fellow standing out there by itself.  It probably wasn't even there when we first moved in 14 years ago, but has finally grown up tall enough for me to notice.  He's (assuming it is a "he" anyway) a cute thing that perhaps next year at Christmas would like to be decorated.  He's been the star of the past few blogs, and this morning, I thought he deserved his own poem.  So here you go Spiny Pine.  I think that is his name now.  Spiny Pine.



Shiny pine out in the cold
Waiting for spring to arrive;
Ice has bedecked you,
Snowfall beflecked you,
How do you hope to survive?

Spiny pine with needles green,
Ever to be even now,
In summer or fall
You must have a ball
Though winter weighs on each bough.

Whiny pine yielding to wind,
Bending and bowing so low;
Keep trying to stand,
In spring you’ll be grand,
Stronger for trials in the snow.

Tiny pine, stoic yet small,
Someday you'll be tall and strong;
But still when it's cold
You'll need to be bold -
Winters in Maine are so long.

©Donna JT Smith, 2013

Thanks Mary Lee, for hosting the Poetry Roundup today at A Year of Reading.  Everyone needs to head on over there for links to more poetry to enjoy today!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas is Coming Soon




Christmas for us will not be until Monday, so yesterday was a time of baking, cleaning and listening to Christmas carols.  It finally felt like a day to get ready for Christmas! I enjoyed the day at home. I made my Christmas Cake - pistachio, pecan, almond green and yellow coffee cake.  It's only available on Christmas week - maybe a few days before Christmas and up to the new year.  Then it goes away until the next year.

Christmas Night was time for family and church.  We went to evening services.  Just because it's Christmas, doesn't mean there aren't the usual open doors on a Wednesday night.  As a matter of fact it was kind of special feeling to have a post-wrapping paper clutter get-together, even though we haven't done that yet.

Our own children weren't around us, so I got to see my nieces and nephew and their spouses and children and give them attention that I might not have given otherwise.  I could hold the newest member of our family, my brother's daughter's infant.  I could delight in the four year old granddaughter, who came up to the pulpit to give her grandfather an impromptu kiss as he addressed the congregation.

I listened as my brother's son, now a preacher in his own right, gave a Christmas message.  Where did the time go?  I remember when he was four, standing on my couch, and I told him to get down...rebellion.  Now a preacher.  Still a bit rebellious...stepping over the carved cherry rail to get to the lectern and begin his message, saying "I've always wanted to do that!"

It was a day with my son working, and bringing him some cake to share with his co-workers, as he worked two double shifts for Christmas eve though the day after Christmas.  What a guy.   Some others could have a family Christmas time.  It was a gift to others.  Of course, he did make some extra pay for it... but it was still a great thing.  And we have to wait until his sister, her husband and their son get here anyway.  We're in no hurry.  We can celebrate this day any day of the year!

And it is snowing.  Again.  Snow over ice.

Friends of ours had a car accident this week and the father/husband is now in the hospital in IC.  Their son suffered a broken arm.  They are waiting to celebrate Christmas, also.  They are in no hurry now.  They will celebrate when everyone is home again.  They can add to their celebration the fact that they can celebrate together this year.

We will finally (weather permitting, again) do our church Christmas program with the kids this Sunday.  Snow and ice delayed the celebration.  But we are in no hurry.  We can still celebrate.  Every day is cause for celebration.

Christ's birth wasn't really December 25th anyway.  Maybe we'll accidentally celebrate it on the right day.

And really, isn't any day, the right day for a celebration?
Iced and now frosted... if a tree could shiver...


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The True Christmas Trees of Maine


A white pine near the house
We have snow in Maine, and we have ice, especially near the coast where we are.  Over the past couple of weeks, we have had plenty of both.  November through April can be a harsh time. Over the past two or three days we have had ice after two snowstorms of a foot apiece.  Most people in Maine have lost power for the past 24 to 40 hours and some still don't have it back.  For a good number of people here there will be no Christmas dinner served at their home today and there will be no Christmas lights on the tree.  Today and tonight the temperatures will be plummeting and those that have power may lose it again.  But still, in all the dangers of frigid weather, in its harshness, there is a beauty that cannot be ignored.

When I went outside yesterday and saw the ice covered landscape, I knew I was seeing the true trees of Christmas.  There was no way to capture the amazing beauty with my phone camera, but I did my best.  The one image I wish I could have gotten was the one with the icy trees bending over the road ahead as a car was about to round a corner or come up over the top of a hill.  Its headlights lit up the trees, making them shimmer and sparkle.  It felt as if we were driving through a cathedral.  It was so beautiful and unreal.  And now for some of the pictures I captured yesterday as we drove through our winter wonderland.  These are the true Christmas trees of Maine.

A hemlock on the corner of our driveway
Birches on our road - they don't recover well
Touching the ground - not good
But this one made it...reaching for the sky!






A large pine bough, all frozen together.



My favorite, ice encrusted and illuminated by a parking lot light.
Merry Christmas, trees!
Merry Christmas, all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Comfort and Joy


I'm representing the northeast corner of the USA up here in Maine in Mark Koopmans' "50 States of Pray" where someone from each state (and some countries) will "take a moment and about 100 words - share a prayer, a thought, a memory, a hope,... a regret,... a wish for the future" on Christmas Eve.
Thank you Mark from Hawaii for this wonderful idea!  Visit the page and hear what other bloggers have to share this Christmas Eve at Aloha! Mark Koopmans Says Hi from HI.

I love this song used in the story of Christmas, sung by the animals where Jesus lay in their manger.  Not too "heavy", just a sweet tune and words.  Have a listen if you have the time this Christmas Eve!

The sheep and cow wanted to prepare him room, and they gave up their space and food for the King of Kings.  They received Him, welcoming Him in.
My prayer is "Let Earth receive her King." 
We always hear that Christmas is about giving, not receiving.
But that's not really entirely true; it is about receiving, too.
Will you receive your King?
When you receive Him, you can then receive what He has to give.
He would like to give us everything. 


May you be filled with Comfort and Joy this Christmas!
Merry Christmas to All!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Nice Day - Ice Day

Lost power at 5:30. Posting on my iPad which for some reason won't scroll down when I'm in edit mode. Wood stove is keeping us warm. Will start the generator off and on to keep the refrigerator cold...though I thought about just filling bags with ice from outside and putting them in the refrigerators. I'm wearing my headlight and we have lanterns around the house. Good thing we finished the chicken pie for a late lunch. All 1100 houses in our island town are without power tonight, along with many people in many other towns here in Maine due to the ice storm.

Another day indoors... 



Icy icicles guard our door...

While rosebush icy canes peek in my window...

And an icy spined pine shivers and whines...

And icy-coated weeds finally succumb to the weight...


And icy oaks wish they'd rid themselves of leaves before the storm...

All is calm, all is bright...


As icy icicles guard our door...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Stormy Weather

Well, last weekend we got a foot of snow on top of a foot of snow, and no one went anywhere.  It was even a bit much for our Golden.  Not really.  She loves snow.  She wants us to throw something so she has an excuse to dunk her head and look for it.  It's the closest thing to a pond she's ever been in.
She is not lying down here.
Her face is not that white!  It's the snow from snowball diving.  She is not lying down in the snow here; she is standing waiting for me to throw her an icicle or snowball!

And today there is more stormy weather.  It has been warm enough that the precipitation has been misty rain, which freezes when it hits the ground.  We tried going in town but we turned around and came home.  It looked like wet roads up until you tried to stop.  There was no stopping.  So rather than have a Christmas in the hospital, we opted to stay home for the day.

The temperature is dropping and the pine needles are drooping under the weight of the ice.  It is going to be a long night with the possibility of power outages due to downed branches and wires.  The weather channel says it will be over at around noon tomorrow.

I wrapped presents.  My husband built a nice wood fire. Now I'm making homemade chicken pot pie and a mini apple pie (because I have an apple and extra crust - actually I added unsweetened natural applesauce, too, to fill it up more!).  It was a good day for staying inside.



And they tasted just wonderful.  Now for some tea.  I should have had that with my pie, but we were too hungry-excited to wait.



Friday, December 13, 2013

All Through the Zoo

Welcome to Poetry Friday!  It's hosted today by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.  Go over for a visit and read some great poetry today!
Here is my offering today.  I am not much for Santa stories anymore, but this one seemed to just come out when I wrote the first two verses (lines).

All Through the Zoo

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the zoo,
Not a creature was sleeping;
They all were too blue.

They’d heard of a Santa;
A real old Saint Nick.
They’d learned he brought presents,
And that made them sick.

They never got gifts!
They didn’t have socks!
They couldn’t use them
In pools or on rocks!

They didn’t have trees
With bright lights and stars;
There were no presents
Behind the zoo bars.

The penguins were sad.
They had just one wish -
That Santa would come
And not bring them fish.

They wanted new scarves
To wrap ‘round their necks.
The bears wanted shoes -
No more "bear" foot treks!

But how to make Santa
Come over this way?
How to steer reindeer
With presents in sleigh?

The giraffes had a plan
With their heads in the sky
They’d stand on each back
Until they were high.

They’d stand up so tall
Above every roof;
They’d be high enough
To tickle a hoof!

And so they piled up
As high as they could.
And waited for Santa -
He’d fly by, he would!

They stretched up so high
And held out great hopes
That they would hail Santa,
Or lasso with ropes!

Their timing was good;
They were pretty quick.
But no one can be
As quick as St. Nick!

The passing of reindeer
And whooshing of sleigh
Made them all wobble,
Beginning to sway!

They all toppled down
In one great big heap,
And woke up old Santa
Who’d fallen asleep -

Asleep at the reins
Of his sleigh and reindeer!
“What was that?” he cried out,
As he looked back in fear.

“Why it looks like a pile -
A great pile of giraffes!”
He smiled and then chuckled
His big belly laughs!

Amid all the fuss,
He landed the sleigh;
He gave them all gifts
And candy caned hay.

The penguins got scarves,
The bald eagles got hats,
The bears got their shoes -
Flashlights for the bats.

The giraffes had brought Christmas;
They’d stopped Santa’s flight.
A merry crashed mass
Brought to all a good night!

© Donna JT Smith

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Train to Christmas

(350 words)
A Train to Christmas

“A twain?  Yea!” Milly’s eyes twinkled.
Light snow was falling. I wished we’d worn boots.  I’d have to carry her to the train station.

I scooped Milly, then my bag from the car. The flakes were getting bigger, the station harder to see.

We boarded the hissing train.  I put Milly by the window and sat down beside her.
“I can see ow-ah cah!”  The window fogged immediately.  She made an S with her finger.

The train lurched forward.  First stop Chicago, then on to Boston. We settled in with crayons and paper.  We would get there the day before Christmas, and she’d experience that special Christmas Eve and morning like the ones I’d known as a child.

Eat, bathroom, nap, color, read...repeat.  The train slowed to a crawl.  "Frozen tracks," they announced.  We inched our way to Chicago.

When we finally arrived at the Chicago station, it was midnight; there were no more trains that night.  Weary, we got a motel room for the rest of the night, but needed to return to the station early to catch the train to Boston.

In the morning, we sat in the station with new tickets for a train leaving any minute to take us home for Christmas. It would have to hurry; it was the day before Christmas and we weren’t even close to home.  Milly wasn’t familiar with Christmas, being 3 years old, but I was. This was not how it was supposed to be.

Frozen tracks. One hour delay.

“Aah we awmos day-uh?”
“No, Milly, but we’ll get on the train soon.”

More delays.  No trains were leaving. Hundreds of people crowded the station now, all waiting. It was getting so late.

I glanced at the woman sitting beside us.  Was she going to visit grandchildren? She smiled, offering Milly a homemade Christmas cookie.

Suddenly, in that vast station echoed the beautiful sounds of a French horn, played by another stranded traveler. 
“Silent Night, holy night...”
Hundreds of people hushed. 
We didn’t have to be somewhere special for it to happen - Christmas Eve had found us.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Story Challenge

Yesterday I started reading blogs and came across the Christmas 350 words or fewer story challenge from Susanna Leonard Hill, and then "Poof!" it was hours later.  But how can you pass up an opportunity to write and potentially be rewarded for your efforts? 
I wrote a different story yesterday, but decided to save that for Christmas Eve posting on Aloha! Mark Koopmans Says Hi from HI because it seemed like it would appeal more to an older audience and fits the Christmas wish/regret/prayer type style, though it was also a mishap at Christmas.  You will have to wait for December 24th to read that one, though.  It's a true story.
And today I wrote this poem for Susanna's challenge as my offering of a Christmas mishap, accident, potential disaster type story.  It is actually a true story, too, except for donkeys lying.
Does anyone else see the Christmas story as a mishap/potential disaster story? 
************************************************
A King on a Donkey  (271 words)

One night in a faraway land
Joseph said, “Mary, please take my hand.
“It's a long way, you know,
Bethlehem’s far to go,
A ride on our donkey is planned.

Over hills and through valleys they walked.
Mary, heavy with child, barely talked.
Joseph led them along
As he hummed a sweet song,
And the donkey never once balked.

As they entered the city that night
The innkeeper learned of their plight.
There was no where for rest,
But he offered his best,
“Would the stable out back be all right?”

Could this night become any stranger?
Should he put his wife in such danger?
No one sleeps with a cow,
Not then and not now;
But Mary spied the hay manger.

Mary needed space in this shed;
A soft place where He’d rest His head.
This would be the night
She’d bring forth the Light,
So Joseph found hay for her bed.

The animals gave up their treat
And offered warm bodies for heat
They baa-ed and they mooed,
They heehawed or cooed,
And soon came the baby so sweet.

The night, long and cold, was now done, 
In the manger they laid their new son.
How strange for a king
To be born without bling,
But thus, is His story begun.

The angels all told of His worth,
And soon shepherds knew of his birth.
They followed a star
And traveled so far
To see the young Savior of earth.

This donkey stayed close by His side.
Whenever He needed a ride
He carried this King;
Oh, what a strange thing!
Other donkeys thought that he lied.

© Donna JT Smith, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

I Am Doing It? I AM Doing It.

I have not yet finished my A to Z book.  I am stalling.  Procrastinating.  Scared.  One of those things or a combination.
But now that's okay. I can continue to procrastinate and work through my scared on that one because, instead, I have taken a baby step with my Musicful poem becoming a picture book.  I am proceeding. I am making a final decision on the press. I am about to push the button to get my ISBNs and bar code.
I have an illustrator.
I am making time.
I-yi-yi.
Preparations.
Process.
Pondering.
Proceeding.
Press.
Push.
Pictures.
Palpitations.
I have to get a cup of coffee.
I am editing and revising today.
And making cookies to take a break.
I am going to need cookies.
Coffee + Cookies + Courage + Commitment = Completion.
.......ok.  Got the coffee... where's the flour?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Musicfully Inclined

Thanks to Robyn Hood Black for hosting this week's Poetry Friday!

This must be because of the bells yesterday.  I really like those bells.  I want to start a bell choir now.

Musicful

Joyful jamming
Sounds abound
Lilting, twinkling
Melodies found

Gleeful scales
Notes so light
Laughing, dancing
In their flight

Jostling jive
Twitch of toes
Jumping, sliding
Anything goes

Cheerful chant
Ropes a’swing
Salting, peppering
Beat’s the thing

Caller calls
Dosey doe
Circling, bowing
Heel and toe

Soulful song
Echos remain
Aching, longing
Heart's refrain

Prayerful hymn
Voices raise
Worshipping, carolling 
Him to praise

Loving lullaby
Momma’s tune
Soothing, drifting
Sweet dreams soon

Music soothes
and gives us peace
Makes us dance
and hop to beats

Gives us joy
and makes us cry
Gives us wings and
lets us fly

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Bells



Last week I got the crazy idea that we should have bell ringing for our children's Christmas program at church.  Hey, there's plenty of time.  We have two Sundays before the Christmas program.
So I ordered some color coded bells for kids from Kids Play online.  I wasn't too hopeful for quality, as they were fairly inexpensive.  I got my bells yesterday, and are they sweet!  I had to try them out right away.  I found "Joy to the World" for playing on an 8-note kalimba.  And if you don't know what a kalimba is, well, shame on you. 
I know what it is... 
now... 
You can look it up like I did.
I set out to play "Joy to the World" right away.  I found it to be difficult to maneuver the bells to ring them on the right beat without getting tangled in my own arms.
But then I found a wonderful tutorial on YouTube by Rod Lloyd.  And what a help! 

Now I can teach a brother and sister pair and let them take the bells home for two weeks and practice to their hearts' content.

This was my very early attempt at playing "Joy to the World" on the bells....


Then here's a later one where I experimented with the ringing, because unlike the real bell choir bells, these are spring loaded clappers, and they ring with any movement.  Plus I don't have a proper surface for lying them down.  They are on a towel and like to roll a bit and clang together when I'm not looking.  They are a pretty mischievous bunch of bells.


I want to be able to play this well enough that I can show the kids how they work, and see what I may need to do to be able to help make it easier for them to learn and perform.   So far, since I am able to do this much in one day, I'm thinking that kids will pick it up in two weeks even more easily.  I'm not worried.  It will be fascinating no matter how it turns out.  And it helps that we have a very forgiving membership.  They like everything.