Performing African Violet Surgery

African violet

One of my seemingly millions of interests is the growing of African violets.  I am definitely still in the beginner category here, but I’ve played at keeping these little guys alive for a few years now.  In May 2014 there was an influx of purchased violets, which really solidified this interest.

Originally purchased to look nice on my desk at work, I quickly learned that the flowers fall off and don’t come back again easily on their own.  And also that these plants need a fair amount of sunlight and warmth.  (Up until very recently, neither of these came in ready quantities at work.)  So, the plants would look pretty for a few weeks and then end up coming home with me to care for them there.

Well, something exciting is happening.  The plant featured at the top of this post is (… get this …) actually getting ready to flower!  And in a big way!  You see, I keep them alive pretty well.  They stay nice and green.  But after some time passes, it’s tricky to remember which ones were which colours.  When you look at the photo, you can see some of the several buds getting ready to flower and can tell this particular plant had pink flowers!  Wuhhoo!

But today was no ordinary day for the violets.  I had two, long overdue missions – both involving surgery.  As in olden times, the kitchen table became the operating theatre and, there, I set to work.

Patient #1

The first mission was taking another one of the plants purchased last spring (maybe the burgundy one?) and separating it.  This guy had multiple crowns — which basically means leaves grew every which way because multiple plants began growing in the same space.

The surprising thing (at least to a novice plant surgeon) was there were a few other little guys in there beyond the two main plants. And so a secondary goal became giving the little guys a new place to make it on their own.  (More on that in a moment.)

Patients #1a and #1b

Pictured here we have our separated patients.  They should adapt and became quite happy on their own in a few days, I think.

The other little guys got mixed in with some new friends, which I will get to in a moment.





IMG_20150125_161707Mission number two was dealing with the plants I was propagating intentionally.  Back in the spring or early summer I tried my hand at a few different techniques of propagating new plants from cuttings.  The method that was the hands down winner was sticking cut leaves directly into the soil and waiting until little guys start to sprout.  And sprout they did.

In a single pot I placed three leaves and all three of them did their thing.  My goal today was to separate the little guys and get them into their own space.








Again, in my inexperience, I was thinking each leaf had started one new plant.  But that’s not the way it goes necessarily.  So, as with the first operation, there were multiple candidates for transplanting.

In the photo showing the candidates, you can see the three large leaves.  They were still in great shape, with some roots of their own, so I thought I’d try an experiment and pot them together again and see what happens this time.


IMG_20150125_173337These are all the transplant candidates.  Some are reeeeeally tiny.  Others will probably do just fine in a few days.  Once they’re happy, I’ll probably try keeping a few at the office and see how that goes in the new space — which has both heat and good sun exposure in the window.











IMG_20150125_173350In this photo you can see three pots of cuttings to begin some new plants.  The one at the bottom left is the retry experiment with the original three leaves.  The other two (bottom right) are new leaves cut from the plant I separated out.  Then other two on the right are the newly separated plant.

The larger plants on the left are just concerned family members who didn’t undergo surgery themselves today.

Well, that’s about it… hopefully in a few days there will be an exciting post about the flowering of the pink violet plant. :)

The Case of the Overambitious Cook

Sunday evening rolls around and I decide I should cook something for tonight and tomorrow.  After some surfing around, and considering what (I thought) was in the house, I decided on a dangerously multi-stepped plan:

– cornbread
– black bean and ham mixture, to be combined with…
– brown basmati rice

Seems simple, right?  Heh.

Even knowing how tragic my skills are when it comes to cooking brown basmati rice, I bravely forged ahead with yet another technique to attempt.  Let’s just say that, although the methods change, the outcome is horribly consistent.  Maybe I need to try white rice and build my confidence?  I don’t know.  Nonetheless, I’m getting better at recovering from these rice disasters.  One day, I’ll figure this out…

The cornbread was a fun one.  I used a gluten-free recipe concocted by a talented friend of mine, on which I’ve sat on for far too long.  Even though I nearly scorched the whole thing at the end (while I was fighting with my gloppy rice, of course) I’d say this turned out fairly well.  I even successfully “made” my very own buttermilk by adding apple cider vinegar to regular milk.  (1 Tbsp. vinegar per cup of milk – let stand for at least 5 minutes.)

And the plan for the black bean and ham mix up (where I was going to use the rice…), this was the inspiration:

Cuban Ham, Rice and Black Bean Casserole

I had planned to follow it a bit more closely than I ended up doing.  But since there was an unprecedented onion shortage in the house I tweaked.  A lot.  I used what little onion we had, chopped up some celery, carrot, and red pepper to go with it, then used some leftover bacon instead of ham.  I drained an entire can of black beans to add in, and all of this looked and tasted good.  But when the dreaded rice needed help, I tried adding some of it directly to the fried up mix.  Of course _after_ doing so, I found a recommendation to rinse and drain the unfortunate rice to help recover, so I’m hopeful that will help what sits leftover in the fridge now.

Anyway, after the ups and downs and trying to build up this underdeveloped skill set, I had something that was relatively enjoyable and leftovers that will see me into another day with more lessons learned.

But, wow, I gotta get past this rice thing… I love rice too much to be inept at preparing it myself!

The quest for a quick curry

My personal pantry has been expanding for several months now, although I’m not taking advantage of it often enough! But on Sunday night I felt like a curry, and we all needed a meal. And the leftovers would help me with a lunch or two as well.xpanding

After Googling around, based on what I felt like and knew I had on hand, I finally found something to work with:
RECIPE: Easy Coconut Curry

Making a few minor alterations (rice instead of quinoa, and no sweet potato) and with help from Mom we gave it a go. Mom is an excellent sous-chef. She handled the rice cooking — a phobia I absolutely must get over — and chopped vegetables up while I was tending to the sauce. However I don’t think I took the “simmering” instruction to heart and may have missed out on a smoother tasting curry because of it. So there’s something I need to understand better for the next time I’m told to simmer down, literally.

We also had almonds on hand and I found these were an amazing addition. Another time I would be curious to try with the sweet potato (Dad isn’t a fan, so I left it out) and with the quinoa. But it was a simple, fuss-free recipe (especially with Mom’s assistance!) and it met the night’s need.

As for the leftovers, they were also a success.  Especially in this bone chillingly cold weather!  It was yummy comfort food combined with the convenience of not needing to go outside.  A perfect fit.

Never ready? Start doing something anyway!

Have you ever noticed how often we aren’t ready for something?  We’re not ready to see a child to grow up so quickly, or ready for a big exam or presentation.  We’re not ready in time for something and so we arrive late.  (Guilty!)  We’re not ready to make a change we know would be good for us.  It turns out we’re rarely, if ever, ready.  Instead of being like the Eveready battery, it’s as though we’re part of the Neveready brand.

It doesn’t even matter if we have control over whether the change happens or not.  When you think about it, a lot of things are going to happen regardless of our (non-)ready status.  And other things could happen – great things, even – but we decline because we don’t feel ready.   It’s easy to fear the unknown.  (And, whether we name it as fear or not doesn’t change the fact it is, indeed, fear.)

When I use the phrase “not ready”, or the equivalent mindset, I find that it’s usually one of two things: 1) I am literally unprepared for something I should be; or 2) I feel that it is not the right time for something and therefore choose not to ready myself.  There are several components to the first which I won’t dive into today.  But the second, oh yes… Let’s chat for a moment about the second.

We can chat about the moment I realized I didn’t have a good answer to questions like “If not now, when?” or “What am I waiting for?”  Or when I started to recognize my answers to those questions were ridiculously vague or terribly unsatisfactory, if I had an answer at all.  Those moments started something.  Quietly but certainly.

Now I find myself within a new era.  And it’s an era with no end in sight, thankfully.  I un-artistically call it ‘a time for doing’.  Don’t expect to hear much about things unless I’m doing them or I’m done.  And some things I’m doing may only be obvious to me.

So, I’m looking forward to returning to the heart of what I envisioned this blog and website would be about.  Let’s do this.  Whether we’re ready or not!


Endometriosis awareness month

I’m not sure where March went, but it’s just about behind us now…. taking both the good and the bad that came with it. I’m looking forward to April. It holds a lot of promise and I don’t want to miss a single moment of that.

One thing that I hoped to so more with, that got sidelined by any number of other things going on in March, was Endometriosis Awareness Month. So in these fleeting moments of March, I’d like to provide a small glimpse of what I live with on a daily basis.

I consider myself really very fortunate. It took a long time to figure out at least some piece of the puzzle for my, admittedly odd, personal health profile. A few doctors later, a few tries with various drug treatments later, and with a great deal of support from family and friends, I have what a great number of women with endometriosis do not have: relative stability of the disease. And I’m blessed to have that.

For now, I get to live above the disease. With a relatively low dose of medication each day, I have a way to live with a minimum of symptoms, a minimum of pain, a minimum of drug-related side-effects, and I have a drug plan that pays for all of it. For now, I enjoy this. I know that when I am off of the meds, things are completely different. I also know that it is possible that the treatment might just stop being effective, or may become too much for my system to metabolize, as long-term options can do. These aren’t examples of me fearing the worst. They are just facts. Facts that help me to appreciate what I have right now and enjoy the season while I’m living it. I might be blessed with a very long season. That would be a wonderful but I don’t take that for granted or any kind of right.

I already have it so much better than lots of women. The thing that is important to understand about endo is that it is a remarkably individual disease. While I believe this is true of many diseases and conditions (and not just the ones I live with), endometriosis effects each person quite differently. Some live with immense, constant pain. Some are unable to find a good doctor (or afford a doctor at all). Some find no help from the medications available and need drastic surgery to “cure” the disease. Some have so much damage done that they have no hope of having a child. Some cannot work or keep a job because they are so negatively impacted. Some have no one to care, support, or understand them…. family, significant others, friends, employers….

One of the strange things about endometriosis that I’ve experienced is that it can be difficult to talk about. Unfortunately, I guess it’s part of societal views where women’s health issues are still not always acceptable to discuss. There is no nationally known foundation or society for endometriosis ….. They exist, but mostly nobody has any clue that they do. Or anything about the disease or the challenges that so many women face because of endometriosis. Mostly in silence.

So there. That’s my contribution. Only a slice of my story, but it’s something I wanted to share this March.

The car that would like to be fixed

Once upon a time there was a cute little Chev Cobalt. Donna liked to drive her Cobalt, although random accidents like rear-enders and deer that run up from behind and jump do tend to happen.

One day Donna’s dad kindly took it in to a GM dealer for routine maintenance and under-warranty repairs. When the Cobalt was returned to Donna’s dad it had damage caused by careless employees who managed to have an accident en route to the drop-off point. The dealer/owner was sorry and apologized, promising to fix the damage at no cost and also would provide a rental vehicle, again at no cost.

The next week, Donna’s dad took it back to the dealer to have the damage repaired — and returned home with a black Cadillac, which Donna felt completely lost in. Driving it was like driving the lead car of a funeral procession. When the car was reportedly repaired, the Cadillac-Cobalt swap was completed. However, the swap was greeted with news that the Cobalt was not repaired properly — much to the dismay of Donna, her parents, and the dealer/owner. In fact, with every opportunity to look closer at the vehicle, mounting evidence of carelessness and incompetence abounds.

This week, after a successful getaway at a music camp, we’re back on our quest to see the poor little Cobalt repaired properly. Concerns remain — what underlying structural problems might exist which made it difficult to repair/line things up properly? How can we take their word that the vehicle is structurally sound, considering this track record? How come they skimped and utilized used car parts? Why so careless when they were the reason it needs to be fixed in the first place? Why do I have to endure follow up survey phone calls and emails for the original maintenance work when this is still ongoing?

Tuesday, we get a second opinion on what needs to be done. After that… I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I just know that I’m mad…. and I don’t get mad often. This can’t be a good thing.

Donna’s Letter to Canada’s (Would-Be) Leaders

(Subtitle: Why Pro-Choice and Pro-Life makes a matching set)

Dear {candidate’s name}:

My name is Donna Harris and I am Pro-Choice. I am also Pro-Life. These two statements are not inconsistent.

A woman has the right to choose what she does with her body. She can choose to engage in sexual intercourse with the full knowledge that a possible outcome of that choice is becoming pregnant when she does so. She can choose to abstain from sexual intercourse with the full knowledge that she will not become pregnant when she does so. She can choose to make use of contraceptive measures to lessen the likelihood that she become pregnant when participating in sexual intercourse with the full knowledge that it is still possible for her to become pregnant when she does so. She has a right to choose what she eats, what she drinks, who she spends time with, where she lives, and any other number of things. These are choices available to her and they are hers to make. I may or may not agree with all of her choices, nor she with mine, but she is free to make them.

But, if that same woman decides that she cannot tolerate her neighbours for some reason, she will also choose what to do about that situation. She can choose to try to work out some arrangement with her neighbours in an effort to improve their relationship, or at least make living nearby more tolerable. She can choose to move to another location, another city even, so she doesn’t have to be anywhere near them. She can even choose to knock them off, ending their lives and also the inconvenience of having them as neighbours. The latter is a choice that she is free to make — but it is neither moral nor socially acceptable. Why? Because it is murder, ending the life of other human beings. It is a blatant violation of human rights. While it would be her choice to do so, the woman has no right to kill her neighbours. And if she did so, she would be tried under the fullest extent of the law and face the consequences of making such a horrific choice.

We, as a society, make abortion a legal option for a woman to choose. But by doing so we have told her that she has the right to choose to end a human life. This same woman does not have the right to end the life of her neighbours — nor should she have. She, like any human being, has the right to choose — as long as her choices do not violate the human rights of another human being. We should not be giving her this option, nor should we be telling her erroneously that she is right to have this option. In addition, we should not be employing medical professionals to provide this option.

I understand that there seems to be some confusion as to when human life begins. But this is something which is made far more complex than it needs to be. The fact is that at SOME point human life DOES begin. Everybody has to agree to that. If we, as a society, are in any way uncertain of when this happens then we simply have no moral right to guess. It isn’t something we can afford to be wrong about. Neither do we have any right to say “this is the point at which life begins to count” or “this is when life starts to matter”. It is a violation of human rights to abort a pregnancy. When an abortion is conducted, the rights of an unborn — yet alive — person are given no regard whatsoever and, to make this more deplorable, an unborn person has no voice of their own to use in self-defence.

Some people will say that abortion is no longer an issue and bears no relevance to political campaigns or day-to-day business of the government. But when our society readily accepts the message that some human rights matter and others do not we have a serious problem. What does it say of our nation — which supposedly prides itself on being a safe, peaceful, fair, and just society — when we cling so tightly to this duality under the guise of making a “choice”?

If we live in a free country, where human rights are upheld and human life is honoured, being Pro-Choice will also mean that one is Pro-Life. In a free society, an individual’s choices in all arenas would always ensure that life is preserved and respected. There would be no conflict between these two.

But because we live in a country that considers abortion to be a moral and legal medical procedure — when in truth it cannot possibly be moral and should not be legal — we do not live in a free country at all.

I want a Canada that is a free country. A nation that other nations will look to as a true example for human rights, clearly demonstrating how human life is precious and to be treated with the utmost respect. I want leaders who respect all human life. Only then can I know that the government’s activities and decisions rest upon a foundation that places the lives of all residents as highest priority. This is a foundation worth having in our country.

With respect,
Donna Harris.