Category Archives: Arbitrary Thoughts

Growing Garlic

I love garlic. I eat it in nearly every dish I make (except cookies), and I’m sure I put too much in sometimes. My sister told me about how she likes to grow her own garlic and she found a great batch from Germany. I don’t remember the exact strain, but she gave me a couple of bulbs so I could grow some too. She lives in the Midwest and I live in the Rocky Mountain region. When I asked how to grow it she said to take one clove, pointy side up, and stick in the ground in the fall and it will come up in the spring. Scratching my head I smiled. I wasn’t sure how that would translate to my climate, but we were interrupted at that moment and I didn’t follow up.  Then, once home, I ate the garlic and never thought again to try to grow it.

Last month, I read an article on one of my favorite blogs, Lovely Greens, about how to grow garlic. She reiterated just what my sister said. Plant it in fall and it grows in spring. Again, this is coming from someone in a climate very different from my own (Isle of Mann to be exact). So, this is the second time in just a few months that I have been told about growing garlic. Maybe I should make an attempt at it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have garlic left from my sister’s batch, but I did just get some from the grocery store. I figure that if I manage to grow that then I will ask for more of the German variety (it is delicious by the way). Doing my usual “guess and by golly” method of doing things, I found a little pot  and stuck four cloves in the dirt and dumped water on it.

It’s growing!!

I am pleasantly surprised that it is actually growing. The larger sprout had already started while it was attached to the bulb so that little guy had a head start. The others are also showing signs of life. If all goes well I should have four nice bulbs of garlic late in the Spring or early Summer.

I will keep you posted on the progress of my planting experiment. Until then, I think I need to eat what’s left of the bulb these came from. Roasted sounds lovely.

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NaNoWriMo – 2017

It is that time of the month again where I join with other writers to discuss the “dark side” of being a writer. Actually, that might be a bit of a strong term, but it will do for now. On the first Wednesday of every month Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) posts one or two subject questions so we can talk about our doubts and the fears that we have conquered as writers. We can discuss our struggles and triumphs then offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling with their own writing.

This month’s question:

  • Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

Let me explain NaNo for the readers who are not familiar. The full term is NaNoWriMo which is short for National Novel Writing Month. During November of every year, writers around the globe sit down to write a novel in thirty days. Sound easy? NOT! The goal is to crank out 50,000 words in a mere thirty days, and if you want one day a week off you have to manage 2,000 everyday of the month. It is, to say the least, an insane challenge.

On to the questions. Do I finish NaNo? I have only participated once before and it kicked my butt out the door by day 10. November is just plain HARD. It is a month when my job intensifies and life just pulls in too many directions. I am trying again this year so I’ll let you know the results. Needless to say, nothing has been published ——

YET.

Thanks to the awesome co-hosts for the November 1 posting of the IWSG, Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass!

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Arbitrarily on Facebook

Social media is one of those formats that I have a hard time keeping up with. Not because I have an aversion to them, but it is more an issue of time. Between writing for blogs plus writing a novel I find my time is thin so I have resisted expanding this  out to a broader social media presence.

That is changing as of today.

I now have expanded to:
Facebook– https://www.facebook.com/arbitrarydustbunnies/
Jump over and like Arbitrarydustbunnies….I really need a few “followers”.

I’ll be on twitter soon.

 

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Cancer Free

It has been two years since my breast cancer treatments concluded and I am happy to say, I am still cancer free. Beating cancer was one of the hardest things I have ever done, being free of it should bring joy. Yet, I have to say this statement (being cancer free), with a little trepidation. I am anxious every time I feel a twinge of pain, or when I do my monthly self exams.  I am always afraid of finding a lump. When I visit my oncologist, my apprehension increases to a point of ridiculousness weeks before I actually see him.

As it turns out, this persistent anxiety is pretty common in cancer patients. There have been a number of studies done (one noted study was done by Lancet Oncology) that confirms anxiety is prevalent among cancer survivors and their families. “Our findings suggest that anxiety, rather than depression, is most likely to be a problem in long-term cancer survivors and spouses compared with healthy controls.”

I thought, when my treatment was finished that everything would get back to normal. I would go about day to day life as if I just recovered from a cold or the flu. No. That’s not how it has played out. My day to day is to have at least one episode of anxiety during the day and at least one as I go to sleep.

Are they detrimental to my well being? No. I get through them. I have learned to breath deeply and appreciate the little things that bring joy into my life. I reached out to my psychologist who taught me how to ride out an anxiety attack and how to see the good things in my life. I have learned how to cope with the devastation of my diagnosis and the possibility that cancer may return. Make no mistake that this is an easy journey. It is not. Some days are easier than others. My mantra is to remind myself that I beat cancer once, and I will beat it again, and again, and again.

I am a survivor.

 

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make a difference by donating to your charity of choice. Support the fight against Breast Cancer!

breast-cancer-ribbon

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Further Thoughts on Racism

My son is Vietnamese, my next door neighbors are Korean, across the way is an Englishman married to a Philippine, and next door to them is a Latino family with the cutest dog you ever saw. This neighborhood sits at the edge of a town where white skin is the majority.

Am I racist because I live in a predominately white town? No.
I have my predominantly white tribe that I feel comfortable with. Does that make me racist? No.
Did a few feathers get ruffled when I posted the statement, “I am racist.” Yes.
I made that statement to make a point to myself. To “try it on” for size. I found the taste bitter and the fit much too small. The narrowness of it all pinched my beliefs.

I have struggled with the idea of hate in any form, especially racism. Why do people hate? What has happened that created such a strong, unforgiving feeling? I wonder what kinds of things would make me hate to the same degree a Supremacist hates anyone who is non-white? We, as humans, bleed the same. We are born and die. We laugh and cry. Our bones break and heal. So, why do some people hate each other so deeply? Recently I read an interesting article where several anthropologists talked about the subject of race. Their agreed conclusion is that children learn racism at a very young age. Through listening to conversations they learn who is important, who is better, and who isn’t.

Let’s say a mother is in a conversation with another adult at the playground, and her child overhears her say, “It’s so great that we have a black president.”

The child just learned a lot about the world from this remark. She learned that there’s a category called “black.” Every other time she heard the word “president,” it didn’t have the word “black” in front of it. She learned that this new term is really important. And she learned that her mother is excited or angry or sarcastic about it, depending on the tone of voice.

Dr. Michael Baran

From a simple statement a child now has a seed planted that will grow into love or hate. Through further conversations, statements, and emotions that are associated with any specific race (Black, Asian, Jewish, Latino, etc), the child forms their view, positive or negative, on that entire race of people.

With today’s technology, this world has become quite small, yet it has great riches in the multitude of diverse cultures. To hate any single group is like cutting off a limb just because it has a freckle. We need each other, in all our faults and strengths. We need to stop hating. We need to teach our children about the beauty in all people. Instead of talking about the color of each other’s skin and who’s culture is better than who’s, it is time to celebrate what we really are. Humans. Plain and simple.

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I Am a Racist

I am Racist.

It does feel strange to say it out loud.

Margo Catts

Years ago I saw a news magazine piece on wealth—more particularly, examining what it took to feel wealthy. A family with a combined annual income of $250,000. Another couple bringing in $1 million a year. Another, $6 million. I’ll jump straight to the conclusion: None of them classified themselves as wealthy. More than any absolute number, what mattered was the point of reference. As long as these people could see others around them having more, they weren’t rich. No matter how high people climb, it seems that “wealth” is what you find on the next rung up.

A lot of things work that way. “Sure, I’m good for a laugh now and then, but I’m no comedian.” “Smart? Good heavens, no—my neighbor is an astrophysicist.” “I mean, I like a clean house but I’m not a clean freak. Now my sister, on the other hand…”

Birth of a Nation, 1915 Birth of a Nation…

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#IWSG – For Writers of All Ages

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. I just learned about this fun group from Shannon Lawrence, who is a fellow writer and blogger. Just the title of the group screamed that I needed to check it out. This group was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh so writers could virtually gather to express their thoughts about writing. It looks intriguing so I have joined in.

Our co-hosts today are Christine Rains, Dolarah @ Book Lover, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Yvonne Ventresca, and LG Keltner!

The question for this month is: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing? Let’s take a look at these one at a time because each one raises a different set of Pet Peeves for me.

READING: When I read a book that has gone through all of the gyrations to reach publication I have high expectations. My number one issue is misspelled words. I can accept a couple, especially in a manuscript of 100,000 words, but when I see multiple instances of spelling errors my hackles start to raise.

A manuscript goes through the mill before publication, and if an author has done due diligence it would have been seen by the author, spell check, critique groups, beta readers, editors (line and content), publishers, early prints, and then reprints. By the time a book is into the mainstream it should not have spelling errors.

Editing: When I’m editing my own work my pet peeve is that I’m too hard on myself. I do endless comparisons of my work to great writers I aspire to write as well as. I remind myself that they have their creative greatness and I have mine. If I find myself being too hard on me, I set it aside and come back later when I’m not thinking of a Jane Austin novel.

WRITING: In this area I tend to not be too hard on myself. The entire process of writing is, in of itself, a process. Like all writers, I start with an idea then progresses through a vast journey of discovery. When I first started to write I thought, “This will be easy. I just put words to paper and, voila, a book appears.” I laugh at myself. Just getting started was a huge learning curve, and today I continue to learn my craft. If I had to name one thing that is difficult for me it would be to write everyday. Getting in a few days a week is a thrill, and I hope one day life will allow me to write daily.

As a reader, what are your Pet Peeves?

#IWSG

@TheIWSG

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Dinner with Children

Growing up I was taught that children should be seen, but not heard. The only place appropriate for shrill giggles was outside. I have three siblings and we did run wild around the neighborhood. We could get loud, very loud. The rules were strictly enforced so when we passed the threshold of the back door our voices lowered and our giggles hushed. Unfortunately, the golden rule of not being heard was enforced more than I liked. The freedom to express opinions, talk politics, religion, or sex were all off the table.

I am a parent now, but unlike me, my children have been raised to be seen, heard, and expressing their opinions is encouraged. Our religious beliefs are openly discussed, we grumble about the state of politics, and we get loud together. My kids are now young adults so going out for a sit-down dinner is getting more rare. When we do get an evening out we put our cell phones away and enjoy each other’s company.

The other night, we had one of those rare evenings that brought not just my family, but also my brother, his wife, and my elderly mother to the dinner table. Unfortunately, we were seated next to one of “those families”. I assumed that they were a husband, a wife, and a female friend, along with four kids under four feet tall.

Having four pint sized kids is a wonderful mix of riotous behavior. I love watching a pack of kids run and squeal. Their joy is so contagious and I can’t help but smile. That is, I love it when they are zealous at home or outside. At some restaurants, like Chuck E. Cheese, it is expected that kids are running everywhere. Screaming laughter should fill those types of restaurants, but at a casual steakhouse where the atmosphere is quiet and patrons want great conversation, kids should be seated and hushed just like everyone else.

“That family” next to us was the epitome of what should never happen at a peaceful, sit-down restaurant. The mom and her female friend were fully engrossed in their cell phones. I can only assume they were texting one another because they couldn’t hear each other with their children running circles around their table screaming. Their male companion (I’m guessing Dad) sat in stupor like an overwrought father who has spent the past four years under child-induced distress.

When the kids actually did sit down they turned on their own cell phones and watched cartoons with the volume set to maximum. In the mean time, we patiently sat and tried to have fun. We did attempt “the looks” in hopes the moms would catch a hint that the kids were bothering us, but in the end that failed. My mother, who is 87, turned to the mom sitting at her back and said, “You need to control your children. They are being very disruptive and rude.” The mom was quite put off about the whole affair. She immediately packed up her kids and tersely informed my mother,  “Your opinion was so helpful,” then stormed from the restaurant.

We were happy to enjoy a quiet meal, but it left a negative taste in the air that took awhile to clear. Once the staleness settled, I noticed another table near us. There were four adults and five kids (three under four feet tall). The children were coloring and talking quietly among themselves, and the adults were having a lively discussion. I scanned the rest of the room and everyone, young and old, laughed and talked with one another. It reminded me that most families are not out of control, and that “those families” are in the minority. The vast majority of children will grow up to be great parents and their children will too.

Put the cell phones and iPads away. Enjoy dinner out with the kids. Let them be seen and heard in all the appropriate places. This is a fun world to be human in and even more so when you have dinner out with children.

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The News

I realized that I haven’t checked in to this blog in awhile. It isn’t because I ran out of dust bunnies to flambe. There are so many things rolling about in this country’s dark corners that there is enough fodder to last centuries. I have followed some of the stories about our political woes, and how our country is being kicked into a corner to play alone. This post is not about all that. I think enough bloggers, reporters, editors, facebookers, and the rest have beaten it all to death.

By reading the newspaper (yes, some of us still read those paper things filled with news), watching the television reports, and listening to the news blips on the radio, I had begun to think that the only thing happening in this little blue ball we call home, was political. It is crazy how the media has been fixated on all of it. So here are a few headlines that I thought might strike a more interesting note.

Fires Burning in Ten Western States — Thousands and thousands of acres of land have burned and the headline is relegated to the bottom of page three? A Boy Scout facility and two homes in California are gone. Burned to ashes. Over 62,000 square miles has burned in the US this year alone.

Drink More Coffee, Live Longer — I love the idea that drinking more coffee can extend your life. Cool. Do you suppose that it has to be caffeinated or do decaff drinkers get the same perks? I am a 60/30 drinker. I can have a tad bit of caffeine, but pump it up to full octane and you’ll have a full blown bitchy hurricane on your hands.

coffe-cup

Her Twins are Here (somewhere) — Beyonce (in her floral glory) has posted photos of her twins. The full length Goddess-like image is all about her. Like the news of the wildfires, her sweet babes are barely visible among the floral noise.

beyonce-babys

Volcanic Cauldron Ready to Blow? — Yellowstone is a volcano waiting to blow, but the latest news on this front is actually old news. The headlines are apocalyptic, but getting through to the bottom line I found that it is rumbling like it always rumbles, and the “big blow” is a long way off. But, just in case you’re wondering what will happen to your house? Here’s a quick look at the blast zone.

yellowstone

Same News, Different Day — The world does spin on its axis, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, and the news will continue to be biased toward whatever headlines will sell the most papers, create the most readers, and fill the biggest data banks (not to mention the size of their checking accounts). We, as news consumers, will have to wade through the mess to get to what we really want to read about. For me, I tend toward turning off the television, putting the paper aside, and opening a good book with a nice cup of coffee.

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Broken Bones

I’ve been lucky through my life in the fact that I have never had a broken bone. When I was young I crashed my bicycle on “suicide hill” and only bashed my head up a little. In my early driving career I was in a head-on collision, and a horrific motorcycle accident walking away from both just a bit banged up. I’ve fallen down stairs, ski hills, bike paths, and all the normal places you can crash. My mother always yelled at me to slow down, “You’ll break a leg!”

broken-leg-cartoon

A few weeks ago my luck ran out. I was skiing with my family and didn’t quite get in the chairlift, and was promptly thrown out landing with my full weight on my hand. Even though I never experienced a broken bone before (I’ve had several sprains) I knew immediately that I had broken my wrist. The pain was quite incredible and I could guess a knife stabbed into my arm might hurt a little worse (but I don’t want to find out if that’s true or not).

After a ride off the mountain on a rescue sled, a couple hours in the ski patrol shack*, and then down to the ER near home, I found myself in a splint and no use of my left hand (I’m right-handed so that is one good thing that came out of it). Until now, I never realized how many simple activities required two hands. Putting on socks, tying a shoe, pulling on pants, buttoning a shirt, styling hair, or cutting food for a meal. As the days went by I found more and more things I struggled with. The challenge of shuffling through papers was made worse by my inability to stack them back into a neat pile and refile them.

I’m thankful that broken bones heal pretty fast. I have regained dexterity in my fingers, and have gone from a plaster splint (sorry no pictures of that behemoth!),

to a beautiful purple fiberglass cast,

purple-cast

and now a removable cast complete with a zipper.

removeable-cast

 

 

 

 

My challenge to shower and dress myself has become easier.

My take away from this is that I have a strong appreciation for the challenges faced by people who permanently do not have the use of one hand. I have been introduced to the frustrations that continue every day for them. I salute them and their resolve to get through the minor things in life, that become major, with the use of only one hand.

————————

*I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to the Loveland Ski Patrol. What a wonderful group of volunteers.  Within minutes I was surrounded by carrying and concerned people. My ride down the mountain was smooth,and my stay in the ski patrol shack was actually, kind of fun! THANK YOU for taking such good care of me!!

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