PHOBIA – One Word Wednesday

phobiaimagesAn overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger but provokes anxiety and avoidance.

Unlike the brief anxiety we all feel when faced with giving a speech or taking a test, true phobias causes intense physical and psychological reactions that affect your ability to function normally.

Phobias are common. We all have a fear of something in varying degrees. Hopefully not too many are debilitating.

My phobia is claustrophobia. Not too bad, but you’ll not find me under houses or in rooms without windows or doors for very long. =)

Mostly, the names of phobias fascinate me. The list is long. You can check it out here.

Ablutophobia- Fear of washing or bathing.

Coimetrophobia- Fear of cemeteries.

Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia- Fear of the number 666. (Try to pronounce that one!)

My favorite has to be Phobophobia- Fear of phobias.

Just joking. I do recognize that phobias are real.

For instance, ASTRAPHOBIA- fear of lightning and thunder.

Our little Buster suffers from this. He looks pretty relaxed, but let a storm come through and that changes.buster resting

It is a phobia shared by many dogs according to the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association.

Behaviorists are not yet sure what part of the storm frightens dogs most, whether they’re reacting to lightning flashes, the sound of thunder, wind blowing around the house, or the sound of rain on the roof. Some dogs even start to pace and whine half an hour or more before a storm. They may be reacting to a sudden drop in air pressure or the electrical charge of the air.

A very clever entrepreneur invented a thing called a thundershirt to relieve the animals’ suffering. An ingenious marketing technique to name the cure after the cause, don’t you think?

We haven’t tried the product with Buster through the shirt has been proven to work for many animals.

I’m Buster’s thundershirt.

Whenever a storm is coming, Buster moves from his place approximately four feet away next to my desk, which puts him within a short jump to my lap.Buster by desk

The first clap of thunder he jumps up and cuddles in my lap. Buster on my knee


It works for him and, fortunately, since he’s so small I can still keep working.

Plus these mountain thunderstorms drop the temperature at least ten degrees and I get a chill. Buster is like an electric blanket on my lap.

Do you or your pet have a phobia? How do you cope?

A Tale of Birds and Bees – Miller Farm Friday

A blog to life with Beekeeper Brian on our wedding anniversary

By Chicken Wrangler Sara

sara Brian cakeCTwenty-seven years ago today, Beekeeper Brian married Chicken Wrangler Sara. At the time they were just Brian and Sara and no one would have ever been able to predict where their lives would go.

They were married in Houston and lived in a second floor apartment near downtown.  Brian worked part time in a bank and went to school while Sara taught elementary school music.  There were no chickens, dogs, lizards, bees or living creatures of any kind sharing the apartment.  It was very quiet.

Then they moved to Denton where Brian could pursue his Masters degree.  While in Denton, they purchased their first home but still had no chickens, dogs, lizards or bees – at least not on purpose.  The quiet continued until the birth of their first child.

For the next 20 years, there would be no quiet. Soon there were two girls, but still no animals.

Their next home was in Canton – home of the world’s largest flea market.  Life was simple, even after a third child was born – a boy.

After six months of simple, the Miller family moved to Mexico City, Mexico to a fourth floor apartment in a building with no elevators. Sara has vowed to never have stairs in her house again.  Life was slightly more complicated, but still included no animals. Brian did woodworking while Sara helped with Bible Studies.  The kids played, as they would have wherever they lived.

Two years later they returned to the US and have lived in Bryan for the past 15 years.  This is where life has become interesting.  It all started with one dog – Marv.  He was soon joined by another dog – Sugar.  They lived outside.

When Rachel was in kindergarten, her teacher gave her a guinea pig.  The whole family was enamored and before long they were breeding and showing guinea pigs (which fall into the rabbit category). Gradually the guinea pigs died off and were replaced by a Leopard Gecko named Casey.

In true Miller fashion, Brian built an incubator and began a breeding colony of leopard geckos. The Millers don’t do things half-heartedly.  The reptile period also included a bearded dragon named “B”.  After a while, the geckos and incubator went to a graduate student and B finally died.

The dachshunds came next. Brian worked with a woman who bred dachshunds and before long there were four living at the Miller house.  Life at the Miller’s was definitely not quiet.

Then began the chicken phase. Brian put a fence in the middle of the back yard to keep the dogs and chickens separate.  Over the next five years, Miller Farm has provided much entertainment leading to the Chicken Wrangler Sara blog.

The bees started as a hive in a tree in the front yard.  While most people would call an exterminator, Brian researched and decided this was the perfect time to realize his dream of keeping bees.  His dedication to his craft has earned him the title Beekeeper Brian.

There has never been a dull moment in the Miller House. Even as the children go off to college, there is plenty of activity.  Beekeeper Brian is a renaissance man who gives the same devotion to everything he does – including his marriage.  After 27 years, life is just as exciting and we have much to anticipate.

Sara and Brian wedding 1CI love you, Beekeeper Brian, and I can’t wait to see what you do next.

Procrastination – One Word Wednesday

Procrastination is the act or habit of putting off or delaying something. A clever enemy of everyone, not just writers.

I’m not sure whether procrastination is a deliberate act or subconscious, but, according to Wayne Dyer, “Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.

Author of The War of Art, Steven Pressfield, calls procrastination a form of resistance. He believes creative types face lots of resistance and offers inspiration to overcome that resistance. Words from his little book have gotten me over more than one bumpy writing slowdown.

I believe his idea of overcoming resistance applies to everyone plagued by the habit of procrastination.

Even if you’re not be a writer, procrastination can hold you back and prevent you from doing something you should be doing.

Goethe said, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.

Writing is hard  and solitary. Those two truths stall many writers. Procrastination wins.

I refuse to let procrastination to win. I get up every morning, put my butt in the chair, and W-R-I-T-E.

Note, I didn’t say when I feel like writing or whether I think what I write is worthy of a Pulitzer. I sit at the computer and write. EVERY DAY.

Does procrastination stall your dream?

I suggest following Franklin D. Roosevelt’s advice so beautifully depicted in Edie Melson’s graphic?


Foray for Mushrooms

Options for summer outings in our little corner of the Rio Grande National Forest are plentiful. There’s something different and fun every weekend. Don’t believe me, check out our South Fork website.

Last weekend we joined the fun on the 14th annual Mushroom Foray.

What’s a Mushroom Foray you ask?

I wondered myself knowing foray is to raid and plunder. Surely, that wasn’t the intent.

I contacted the Visitor Center for information and learned the Mushroom Foray is a simple adventure into the forest to learn to identify edible mushrooms.

And, if you check, you’ll find that venturing into something new is a less used meaning of the word.

So off we went into the forest on one of the many Rio Grande Forest Service trails. We stopped at three different elevations to find different species of mushrooms.

At the first stop, we gathered our paper sacks and hiked up the hill into the woods. My husband and I were a little fearful that we’d be the only ones of the twenty folks on the foray that didn’t find specimens, but we soldiered on.

Jerry mushroom foray1Our fears were found less for we quickly located a mushroom by a fallen log and prepared to extract the bloom from its habitat. I dutifully made notes of the location on the sack and carefully dug the mushroom then dropped it in the sack. My husband, meantime, kept searching.

???????????????????????????????We found six different varieties of mushrooms and proudly dumped our cache for identification along with the mushrooms others had collected. Alas, only one of our finds was an edible variety.

On our third and last stop, we ate our sack lunch then started searching again. More sure this time of what to look for, we were careful to dig only the ones we thought were edible. mushroom (3)

In the picture below, the large white mushroom was the star of the pickings. It was the biggest example for the day of an edible mushroom…and it was ours.mushroom (2)

The day provided a truly fun foray and an educational adventure. Now, if we are ever stranded in the forest, we won’t starve. We know what mushrooms we can eat.

Although my husband isn’t so sure eating a mushroom is better than starving. Me, I love the fungus blooms.

New Chicks – Miller Farm Friday

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

We hatched more chicks last chicks

Twenty-one of them hatched all on their own. There was one, however, who just couldn’t seem to get out of his shell.

The normal process is for the chicks to “pip” or poke a hole in the shell then they “zip” a line all the way around the shell. Once the line is complete, they can “pop” off the top of the shell and make their entrance into the world.

This chick had pipped and partially zipped. We waited 24 hours and there was still no progress.

We could hear him cheeping so we knew he was still alive. Rachel gently removed the egg and carefully helped the chick out.  He was in the shell upside down so he couldn’t finish zipping and push his way out.

We let him dry and put him with the other chicks in the brooder. He was a little uncoordinated. The other chicks were not particularly welcoming and he protested loudly in his new home. After a few hours, he was accepted and now it is hard to tell which one he is.

I named him Leo after the lion in the book Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus, illustrated by Jose Aruego.

I enjoy watching the chicks. They sleep with their heads down on the wire.  It makes me a little nervous because they look dead.

So I hit the top of the brooder and wake them up. They are not happy.I apologize and tell them I’m just “chicken” on them.

I want to introduce them to the Miller sense of humor while they are still young.

Un-stereotyping – One Word Wednesday

stereotypeI’m in the process of developing characters for two new love stories, and I’m wrestling with creating people who will be real to my readers.

At the same time, I’ve discovered I fell into the stereotyping pit in developing my fictional hero and heroine.

In the next novella of the Fitzpatrick Family series, my preacher’s daughter heroine is any parent’s nightmare.

In the final book of my military romance series about starting over, my retired Army colonel hero is a tough old bird unwilling to show vulnerability.

Of course, the characters can be exactly that way, but Holly Gerth’s blog got me to thinking. Do they have to be?

Too often (and too quickly),  we lump people into categories because of a common characteristic or trait rather than think about their story.

I know from personal acquaintances the stereotypes I created are not necessarily true. Army officers can be compassionate and alpha at the same time. All preachers’ kids are not rebellious.

As a writer, I was being sloppy with my characterization so I started over and interviewed both characters, one at a time, again.

I discovered some amazing things that un-stereotyped them both.

Things that altered the plots of their stories.

Things that will make both novels more interesting.

Whether writing or dealing with people in our everyday world, stereotyping is the easy way, the lazy way.

A trap we shouldn’t fall into. Wouldn’t you agree?

The Scoop on the Ice Cream Cone

Last month was National Ice Cream Month. Did you know?

I didn’t either until I read Kovel’s Newsletter about ice cream-related memorabilia. Though I’m not in the antiques business full time anymore I often assist friends and neighbors with estate liquidatons so I read Kovel’s to keep up with trends and prices.

One of the articles gave the origins of the waffle cone.

Italo Marchiony, an 1896 New York City ice cream pushcart vendor, wanted to stop customers from walking away with his serving dishes and invented the edible cone. He patented the special mold for waffle cups with sloping sides in 1903.

A different account claims a 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair ice cream vendor ran out of paper dishes and made a deal with a neighboring vendor of “zalabia,” a waffle-like pastry. The combine effort of rolling up the waffles to hold ice cream was a big hit with fair goers.

Entrepreneur W.W. Turnbull saw fairgoers enjoying ice cream out of the rolled waffles. Three years later, he invented an ice cream cone vending machine. His Turnbull Cone & Machine Company of Cincinnati, which relocated to Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1918, became one of the country’s largest ice cream cone producers.

Turnbull Cone’s motto: “Eat a cone every day. You’ll feel better in every way.” I would agree!



This is a “Turnbull’s Crisp Clean Cones” soda fountain ice cream cone dispenser from about 1920.

A light bulb on the inside keeps cones warm and crispy. Push the levers on the outside to release the bottom cone down the chute.

The vintage machine sold for $960 at an auction in Iowa.

The idea of edible cones exploded in popularity after the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and somewhere along the way ice cream businesses like Dairy Queen entered the picture for ice cream lovers.

DQ stop signFor those of you living where there are no DQs, Texans call the distinctive sign the Texas stop sign.

I promise my vehicle certainly stops far too often. But only to confirm Mr. Turnbull’s motto, of course.