Friday, November 21, 2014

FIRST FIVE FRAGMENTS FOR FRIDAY - revisiting gratitude, talking turkey

Your weekly offering of writing prompts.

As we close in on Thanksgiving here in the United States, we can choose between planning a meal that we love with people who matter to us or setting our alarms to be awake for Black Friday sales. We can choose to express gratitude or to exhibit the height of consumer urgency. We can savor small bites or stuff ourselves to the gills. 

What do you choose? Quiet practice or noisy gathering? Being okay with what’s in front of you or rushing to acquire more? Maybe a little of both?

My kids and I are going to make fudge the night before Thanksgiving with the same big wooden spoon we use every year. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be on the television at our house on Thanksgiving morning. I’m going to pour a glass of wine, have dinner with close friends. On Friday, I am sleeping as late as the dogs will let me.

There are some traditions that must be kept, but some get modified as families grow and people must share their time. I’m grateful for my kids who have a sense of balance and fairness, my friends who welcome us, and my community where food is available every single day.

As writers, we have a lot of power to put words out there where other people stay quiet. Maybe one of today’s prompts will urge you to get your activist on.

  1. Five things Americans should be grateful for but usually forget to mention
  2. If turkey weren’t required, I would make ___________ for Thanksgiving
  3. What am I grateful for right this second?
  4. The best place I’ve ever had Thanksgiving dinner was ____________
  5. Who would I like to invite to my table?

Happy Friday. Happy almost-Thanksgiving.

Doesn't a salad sound good? (photo courtesy of

Fun Facts About Turkeys

Male turkeys don’t just gobble. They also purr. 

How do you figure out if a turkey is a boy or girl? One way is to look at its poop. That’s right. Males and females drop poop in gender-specific shapes.

Over 45,000,000 turkeys are cooked and eaten on Thanksgiving Day.

Find more fun facts at these two sites:

Friday, November 14, 2014

First Five Fragments for Friday - Readers Respond Edition

Your weekly offering of writing prompts.

Last week,  I asked for readers to share their favorite prompts, hoping we would get some really specific ones, to share in this week's Fragments. Here they are:

1. Morning tea
2. Memories
3. Write a poem of supplication (from Diane Lockward's Poetry newsletter)
4. Scent

Thank you to Anonymous, Audrey, Constance, and Elephant's Child for participating.

Now, let's look at those prompts. They are broad, they are each general enough that anyone could dig in. What happens if we spawn five more prompts from each one? Then we might get something like this:

Morning Tea

1. My favorite teapot
2. The worst brewed tea I've ever tasted
3. The first time I drank tea, I was here: ___________
4. My mother preferred coffee over tea.
5. If tea doesn't have any caffeine, what's the point?


1. I was a three-year-old in the living room of the house on Polk Street when JFK was shot.
2. It took Dad three hours to drive 34 miles that time we took the Rollinsville Pass as a shortcut through the mountains near Boulder.
3. I can't remember where I got the dog cloth that looks like an oven mitt, but it's the best thing ever for cleaning dog paws.
4. Mom talked to people who were dead when she was in the hospital after her stroke.
5. When we had the big Halloween snowstorm, I tromped through snow past my knees to take my son trick-or-treating.


1. What have I prayed for lately?
2. To whom have I prayed?
3. The rosary I had in childhood has disappeared.
4. Trees bend in supplication from the force of strong wind.
5. No one should be forced to kneel before their partner.


1. Baby powder is the scent of innocence.
2. There is no way to fully mask the smell of marijuana, but that didn't stop the kid from trying by mixing his weed with coffee grounds.
3. My father is Old Spice and cigarettes.
4. During her pregnancy, she could not stand the smell of hamburger as it cooked.
5. Autumn is the scent of drying leaves, freshly carved jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin lattes, and death.

And there you have it - 20 prompts for the price of four responses. Have at it and Happy Friday.

Where I was a year ago - at a San Francisco graffiti art zone

Friday, November 7, 2014

First Five Fragments for Friday - What November Brings

Your weekly offering of writing/art prompts.

November in Minnesota. We begin with the left-over Halloween candy then move to elections, frosty mornings, deer-hunting season, rotting jack-o-lanterns tossed in the garden, and Thanksgiving menus. Holiday decorations appear first in the retail outlets, and then creep closer and closer to our own front doors. We debate whether shopping on Thanksgiving Day itself is a good thing or a horrendous thing, unless we decide we don't care and pour ourselves another glass of wine. Let people do what they will.

November puts me into a certain mood linked directly to the now-naked trees, the clouds that might hold snow, the sound of the furnace as it kicks in. I stand in front of the window longer, watch the birds as they argue over perches on our bird-feeders. The idea of sitting in front of the fireplace with a good book sounds so much better than it did over the summer.

And so does the idea of writing. Which lead directly to this week's prompts.

1. The Internet of Things and the idea of magic. What price do we pay for using these tools that appear to be magical?

2. Is Thanksgiving being completely overlooked as a holiday in its own right?

3. Voting. Rights. Pressure to vote. The right to choose not to vote.

4. Chiweenies. Because every list of prompts needs a light moment.

5. A call for your favorite prompts. Tell me your favorite prompt of all time in a comment below, and I'll post the list next week.

Happy Friday. It's not just Decorative Gourd Season (heads up, NSFW link), it's red wine season in this house.

Fun Fact for the Week

A 70-foot white spruce from northern Minnesota is on its way to Washington D.C. where it will be ensconced as the national Christmas tree. Go, Minnesota!

Friday, October 31, 2014

First Five Fragments for Friday - Which Witch is Which Edition

Your weekly offering of writing/art prompts.

Halloween will never stop being one of my favorite days of the year. Never!

And so, of course, this week's prompts are really an indulgence in all things witchy. I give you five fun witches, all of whom hang out at my house.

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Fun Fact for the Week:

The most popular Halloween costume this year depends on where you live. Huff Po recently posted the most-Googled costumes state-by-state. What showed up for Minnesota? A banana. I'm baffled.

Here's the link, if you're truly dying to know more:

Friday, October 24, 2014

First Five Fragments for Friday - A Happy Looking Back Edition

Your weekly offering of writing/art prompts.

So often during autumn, I get nostalgic as I tromp through fallen leaves, breathe in that crisp cold air, and crave Halloween candy. It's a happy sort of nostalgia. And, so, this week's prompts are flashes of my past life. Really old flashes from a simple, happy time.

from my mother's Better Homes & Gardens cookbook circa 1965

Yep, my very first report card. I'd still be in school if I could afford it.

Can you figure out which one was the most loved?

Not entirely sure why Midge and Barbie still live in a box in my basement.

This was also in that basement box, but when I was little, this lived on my bedside table.

What do you still have that comes from a happier time? What would you say about that object now?

Happy nostalgic Friday.

Fun Fact for the Week:

This is another photo from my mom's old cookbook.

Because the cookbook came from the mid-Sixties, it's very much aimed at a woman and her assumed role as homemaker. The only time men show up as potential cooks is in the section on grilling; there, the hands in the photos are men's hands. There is also a whole special helps section that has two pages on stain removal, which includes "puppy stains (urine)", blood, and mercurochrome, and I had to wonder what that was doing in a cookbook. And the very first page is a letter addressed, "Dear Homemaker".

None of these things show up in my version of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, Limited Edition 2000. And that's why I'm keeping both versions on the bookshelf in my kitchen. It's nice to see how far cookbooks - and the assumptions about who is actually doing the cooking and why - have come.

Friday, October 17, 2014

First Five Fragments for Friday - It’s in the Details

Your weekly offering of writing/art prompts.

Earlier this week, I wrote about my unwavering focus on Little Trees car fresheners, which I saw dangling from the rearview mirror of the car in front of me at a stoplight.

It’s attention to those little details that sometimes turns into a story, a work of art, a statement. Those details can derail a train, down an airplane, change a life. Or they can simply cause a sock to unravel because the wrong thread was pulled. 


Today’s prompts are odd details that may or may not get your attention. Do with them what you will.

1.  The neighbor’s back porch, with the shades rolled up, holds an assortment of items including a black men’s 10-speed bike, a box with “mountain grown Bartletts - 1.50” printed on the side, a green coffee can, a lidless Cool Whip container, a white director’s chair, a white bike helmet, a half-empty bag of Scott’s lawn fertilizer, a coiled green hose, and a pink sweatshirt tossed atop some boxes.

2.  Here is a list of things necessary to manage type 1 diabetes: insulin, an insulin pump or insulin pens, cartridges for the pump or needles for the pens, a blood glucose meter, strips that fit the meter, a lancet and lancet needles to get blood samples, batteries for the meter and the insulin pump, alcohol swabs for the tops of insulin vials, prep swabs for skin before inserting an insulin pump set, glucose tablets in case of low blood sugar, insulated carriers for insulin vials or insulin pens, a clip to hold the insulin pump on a waistband, a checklist for travel so nothing gets left behind, a copy of all prescriptions, and one thing - anything - that helps maintain sanity while managing a chronic condition.

3.  If someone is in the midst of an asthma attack, the skin at the base of their neck seems to suck itself inward while the muscles on the sides of their neck become taut ropes as they try to inhale. The sound of the inhalation is a chorus of odd, faint squeaks.

4.  Has anyone ever bought a lottery ticket based on these numbers?

5.  What is this?

Got enough details to ponder for the entire weekend? Good!

Happy Friday.

Fun Fact for the Week:

When was deodorant invented? According to an article on Mental_Floss, the first trademarked deodorant, called Mum, appeared in 1888, and it was actually a paste for the underarm area. Can you imagine putting that in your gym bag?

The scent-obsessed can learn more about that here: Body Odor Through the Ages: A Brief History of Deodorant.

Blame this week's fun fact on those car deodorizers that probably won't show up on this blog ever again.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Midweek Musings

Today, I was driving back from the Post Office when I pulled up at a stoplight behind a small car. I can't tell you what kind it was, because its logo didn't get my attention. What did get my attention were the three pine tree-shaped car deodorizers that hung from the car's review mirror. You know the ones - they look like little Christmas trees, smell strongly of something that resembles pines, swing wildly when the car they're in turns a corner.

I hate those things. I know they serve a purpose, but not in my car. Their stench is just about on a par with other nasty things I would rather leave at the curb. That's not to say someone else can't love them. And I am aware that they have other scents for those little tree shapes now, scents that weren't around when I first made their acquaintance.

If you love them, or you work in a place that makes them, I apologize.

Anyway, I couldn't stop looking at those and wondering why that car's owner had three of those smelly excuses for a sachet hanging from his mirror. Did he want to cover up the smell of cat vomit/dog poop/a dead body? Did he regularly forget to shower? Transport too many White Castle hamburgers? Did someone leave a dead fish in the car like in the movie, Grumpy Old Men?

Why did I care?

Ah. Why did I care? I truly can't answer that except to say that this is what I do all the time as a writer. Find some stupid little detail that gets my attention and I can't let it go, like when I find a thread hanging off a shirt and I just have to pull it to see what happens. I make up reasons for that detail, put it in different scenarios in my head, wonder who that person is who owns the detail, think about what it could lead to.

By the time I got home, a matter of 10 minutes from when I saw the oddly arresting little tree shapes, I had half a story in my head. Not sure when I'll actually figure out the other half of that story, but that one detail unleashed a lot of thought.

And that, right there, is one reason details matter. Without them, there is no story.

Come on back here on Friday, when my weekly writing prompts zero in on all kinds of goofy details. See you then.

Curious about the above-mentioned car air fresheners? Here's the link to Little Trees Air Fresheners.