Soft puppy dog hair

I love it! My little student came to class with a fresh #1 clippers haircut. What a wonderful sign of spring! His two big brothers had haircuts, too.

We called the #1 clipper cut "soft puppy dog hair" when my sons were little. It drives the ladies wild!! Mommies, first-grade teachers, even school principals can't keep from patting the heads of little guys with new soft puppy dog haircuts.

(Spring 1989)

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder



What I know about the long conflict in the Sudan would fit on a grain of rice. Had not a clue that the country has been destroying itself the entire time I've been a parent. So much for the image of myself as an informed citizen of the world!

Sudan meant nothing more to me than some vague Egyptology concepts of Nubia, Meroe, Khartoum, Coptic Christians, the kingdom of Kush, and the 19th century search for the source of the Nile. Reading many Amanda Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters didn't seem to help.

Sad to say, I'm more comfortable with cosy mysteries and ancient cultures buried under the sand than learning about modern genocide. Two things are pushing me to be more informed. First, I'm reading Prairie Bluestem's blog about her nephew volunteering in the Sudan. Second, I saw a wonderful, uplifting movie about three Lost Boys adjusting to life in the United States. It's called, God Grew Tired of Us.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Dust storm

The wind was whipping up when I went to Whole Foods Market about noon. The store was an aesthetic adventure. Huge bins of perfect organic produce shining under spotlights while the audience of physically fit foodie shoppers pushed carts in low light. Fantastic stacks of exotic cheese, a gleaming array at the olive bar, jewel colored shrimp on mounds of ice competed for my attention. My list was short. I held firm to the knowledge that I wouldn't actually do the type of cooking these foods demanded once I got them back to the condo. I was just window-shopping, like the old days of fancy window displays in downtown Lincoln.

It's been many years since I read Don DeLillo's apocalyptic White Noise, but I remember that the grocery store grew more beautiful as the world outside it decayed.

Took this photo looking down the street toward the llama farm about four p.m. The world seemed faded, but glowing, and the air tasted like wagon ruts. Winds were gusting to sixty mph, and visibility was less than half a mile. Dust was blowing in from the west, bringing "most of Lubbock" to Plano, as one friend commented.

I'd been on a little errand to the post office and a little store. The wind had blown the front door of the store out of its frame so it was hanging at ninety-five degrees instead of ninety. The little shopkeeper was up on a tall aluminum ladder with a screwdriver trying to fix it, head ducked to keep flying grit out of his eyes. When a customer went into the shop, he climbed down to ring up the sale. When the customer went out, the ladder blew over, just missing the lady's head.

It's White Noise. I'm going home and hunker down. I wish I could read Don DeLillo's description of the particulate-enhanced sunset right now!

"Ever since the airborne toxic event, the sunsets had become almost unbearably beautiful...."


© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


The way to your teen's heart is through his...

...blender. Smoothies. Nutritious, energy-boosting, straw-worthy, cupholder-friendly fruit and yogurt smoothies.

On a real world resume I could note that I have thirteen years of experience parenting teen males. That outshines the two years leading the Cub Scout group, the five years of toilet training, and all my continuing education credits in emergency rooms.

A nephew turns thirteen this week. My sister is new at this teen guy division of parenting. I offer this wisdom, although I should probably charge for it:

Teen guys must have their blended fruit concoctions!

They are not morning people.

If they can get themselves upright and deodorized in the morning, you can place a large blended smoothie with a bendable straw into the hand not holding the backpack, and they are as good to go as they are going to get before noon.

Hoping for more will bother you way more than it bothers your teen.

Teen guys like machines with motors and loud noises that smash and destroy stuff.

In this regard they are not significantly different than they were as toddlers.

Before they start "fixing" your car, let them learn to drive the Hamilton-Beach blender.

Smoothies are a teen guy's introduction to preparing his own meals. Before you know it your little darling will want to boil his own pasta. Can guacamole be far behind?

The Ice Crush/Pulse button is used to accompany Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild".

Teen guys want to experiment and live on the edge. Bring exotic fruits home from Hinky Dinky and leave them unattended on the kitchen counter.

Teen guys want to think they are "bulking up."

Teen guys want to watch tv while they sip their smoothies. The closer you can move the tv to the blender, the fewer spills on the carpet.

This bonus hint--the longer a heavy metal rock concert t-shirt wallows in the dirty laundry pile, the faster the gross guy perspiration destroys the fabric particles.

Someday your son's taste in music will improve. Until then, sing along.

I want my, I want my MTV

I want my, I want my MTV

We gotta install microwave ovens

Custom kitchens deliveries

We gotta move these refrigerators

We gotta blend these green kiwis!

Get your blender runnin'

Head out on the highway

Lookin' for adventure

And whatever fruit comes our way

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Found my lucky shirt

Back behind the stack of Rubbermaid storage containers full of teaching materials and fabric remnants in the darkest corner of my closet under the pair of too tight jeans and the stained sweatshirt for Goodwill I found it! I'd given up hope. Resigned myself that I'd somehow forgotten it out at White Rock Lake the day of the marathon aid station.

The Brooks running shirt from the 2005 Half marathon is just incredibly comfortable. I got the shirt for volunteering at the finish line, not for running, of course. It's perfect for weekends, home maintenance projects, and napping.

Now that I have it back, the energy of the cosmos has shifted. The surgeon says Dad can put weight on his leg and start using the walker instead of the wheelchair. I've accepted a job teaching with people I love, expanding my favorite part of my old job. The position will give me some flexibility to help Dad, write, make art, and maybe even visit my sons. Plus, springtime has come to North Texas!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


The Mama Finally Collages

I've launched my long-delayed visual art blog. Sometimes I forget that "CollageMama" originally applied to work as a visual artist. The new blog is MamaCollages, and I hope you will visit it and critique my early efforts.

During my recent Nebraska trip I was cut off from my usual blog and email routine. I wanted to write about my time spent in Dad's hospital and therapy rooms, and the spiral notebook was SO SLOW. I was desperate to create visual compositions inspired by my time staring out windows at the snow. Why do we write? Why do we create art? Being marooned outside my normal routine, I wasn't sure what I thought because I hadn't created art or written about my experiences. I create so I can learn what I think!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Laughter is good medicine

Don't drink rootbeer at the Dallas Opera's production of "Lohengrin" this week. You know how weird it feels when you laugh so hard the rootbeer shoots out your nostrils.

Gotta say I was leary about attending my first Wagner opera, and not just because it is four and a half hours long. I had the feeling that as a tone deaf latecomer to opera, I would never be worthy of The Master. Plus, I've been laughed out of a room of musicians for pronouncing the Wag like a bag. Ooops! That's the equivalent of ripping open a package of potato chips and having them fly out all over the table at a four-star restaurant.

Who's laughing now?

In the Sixties there was a fad in little girl fashions of petticoats with pink inflatable inner-tubes at the hems. I think it was a few years before the "pettipants" fad. Imagine the female members of the opera chorus in grey cheesecloth gowns with wired hems circling out about eight inches above their ankles. Hours of construction went into the costume for each chorus member, but the visual effect was of the failed projects of a seventh grade sewing class.

The male chorus members are dressed as ... as... as WHAT? They wear wide full-length Samurai culottes and vaguely military jackets. Some scenes they accessorize with Incredible Hulk rubber armor breastplates that tend to ride up on the guys, necessitating frequent adjustments. Other scenes they wear white paper collars that make them look like Puritans at the dentist's office. And why are the Samurai Puritans playing volleyball in that decaying vacant warehouse with the tree growing through the window???

In Act II Ortrud and Telramund's faces are rarely lit, so opera glasses are of little use. When the sorceress, Ortrud, writhes on the floor invoking Wotan and other pagan gods, she appears to rip the head off a little yellow ducky puppet like my baby sons had. We will never know why she was wearing a ski headband of the type my brother used to call an "ear bra" with her wig.

The set, costumes, and lighting design are from Teatro Muncipal di Santiago (Chile). The nonsensical stage direction is by Alfred Kirchner.

(CollageMama's representations)

The music is glorious. Don't stay home. I haven't given all the laughs away by far. And laughter is something we all need.


Yippee it's Jaap!

I'm the last person to learn that the Dallas Symphony Orchestra named Jaap van Zweden* its new music director, but I'm very excited anyway. I was rooting for him since I was lucky enough to experience his atom-splitting guest conductor appearance with the DSO in February 2006.

This interesting note in the DSO press bio:

The van Zwedens are very committed to bringing awareness and acceptance to the cause of autism, and in the Netherlands have established the Papageno Foundation, devoted to bringing music therapy into the homes of autistic children.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram added this information:

Yet for all of his talk about musical rigor, his tender side comes out readily. Van Zweden and his wife, Aaltje, have been married since 1983, and they have four children, ages 12 to 22. Their 16-year-old son, Benjamin, is autistic, and for years the van Zwedens have been dedicated to bringing awareness and acceptance to autism.

The couple's quest for help for Benjamin has already provided van Zweden a strong connection to the U.S. The family traveled to the Boston area to seek treatment for him, and van Zweden talks openly about undergoing therapy himself, along with his wife.

"Aaltje and I ... loved each other so much that we didn't want this disturbing our relationship. It's really tough to have a special child."

In the Netherlands, the van Zwedens have established the Papageno Foundation, devoted to helping autistic children through music therapy.

"Through music, you have the ability to get to know your child better and better," he says. "If you make sounds and you sing together with your child, that's a wonderful way to start this communication."

*(his first name is pronounced "yap," his last, "van ZVAY-den")


Brain strainers and Gerber popsicles

Feeding toddler and preschool sons made for odd cooking memories. Today I'm wondering how the funny kid who sat eating a Gerber popsicle in the high chair wearing his tuxedo bib and railroad overalls can be turning twenty-two.

Second Son wanted food he could do all-by-himself. Amen, and pass the Cheerios! He wanted pasta with parmesan. He especially wanted a popsicle like his big brother's. Done! Popsicles were made in the vintage Tupperware Tupps from MY childhood using plain yogurt, Gerber strained fruits, and juice. There was a lot of nutrition in these frozen novelties. I was glad not to spend my days trying to fly the airplane of Gerber beets into the airport hangar of Mikey's mouth!

Does Second Son remember any of this as he finishes college? News on the AP wire today suggests that he only remembers the smallest portion of boiled mental pasta strained in the colander of his infancy. Patricia Bauer from Duke University compares the brains of babies to colanders:

The ability to form memories depends on a network of structures in the brain and these develop at different times, Bauer said. As the networks come together between 6 months and 18 months of life, researchers see increased efficiency in the ability to form short- and long-term memory, she said.

From age six months to two years, memory increases from about 24 hours to a year, she said. But, noting that children, like adults, forget, she compared the brains of infants and adults to colanders used to drain food.

The adult colander has small holes, for draining something like orzo or rice, while the infant colander has larger holes, such as for draining large penne pasta, but allowing more information to flow out.

Dr. Bauer does not address either Ragu or Kraft parmesan issues. She doesn't discuss why we lost our poor meatball, or even our bladder control, when somebody sneezed. We are left to wonder if there's a hole in the bucket, the bucket, the bucket. There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole.


And the painted ponies go up and down

The little students bring me the Chinese checkers board. They are attracted to all the colorful pegs in the star points. Will I show them how to play? If they will give me a minute to remember, I will be glad to help them.

A minute is not enough. I remember the game shelf behind the kitchen door at Grandma's house, with the Chinese checkers board and the marbles in the cottage cheese carton next to the cardboard can of Tinker Toys.

There are dust motes in the sunbeams playing on the dark curved legs of the buffet. A German clock ticks. African violets and baby's breath grow in little glazed pots on the shelves my dad built for his mother's dining room window. Real people, possibly related to me, crocheted the tablecloth. I pray that I'm never the one to drip brown gravy on the tablecloth.

We play Chinese checkers near the violets sitting on the itchy rug. Sometimes we play in the pink bedroom under the tall brass bed. That's our hideout. We can sit on the cool wood floor down there and peek out under the edge of the chenille bedspread. The windows are open to the sounds of mourning doves or afternoon locusts. It is 1967. Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell sing on the transistor radio. Pete Seeger. The Byrds, too.

There's a circle inside the heavy glass jar of gum drops.

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star ...

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it's not too late!

And a time to make sure you turned off the burner.

According to the Kansas State Historical Society, Chinese checkers was a craze in the 1930s:

Chinese checkers was not a new game; it was a simplified variation of a European board game called Halma, which was developed around 1880 and had its own run of popularity in America during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Like Halma, from two to six players could play Star Checkers. The first player to move all of his ten marbles from one point of the star to the point directly opposite by means of checkers-like jumps was the winner.

How strange to find this information. My grandma's name was Halma!


Step aside, Fodor and Frommer...

It's time for a new travel guide--The Baby Boomer's Guide to Hospital Food. I'm offering to do the taste-testing and write the reviews. All I need is an RV with wireless internet. Remember that intern named Gonzo Gates, played by Gregory Harrison, on "Trapper John, M.D." who lived in an RV in the hospital parking lot? I'll do the driving myself. Sometimes I'd even be willing to go "undercover" as a secret patient or secret visitor, although it would be more harrowing and drafty than being a secret shopper.

You ask, of course, what credentials I have for the job. I've spent five years as an insider, working in a hospital kitchen making sure patients get the most nutritious and appetizing meals their doctors will allow. I've eaten in hospital cafeterias as a penny-pinching hospital employee*, and as a sleep-deprived and worried visitor hoping for a decent meal without added stress. As a patient I've learned that when the going gets rough, the tough order prune juice, and that the nurse assistant is comparing your intake versus your ouput. As a parent I've learned tricks to get sick kids to eat. As a daughter I've learned a few ways to get elderly patients to consume more liquids. I understand the frustration of opening a pack of saltines, or peeling the foil top off a container of juice without spilling. I know the magic words to say if you want a toasted peanut butter sandwich and raspberry sherbet at 2:30 a.m., as well as the winning strategy for marking menus. I understand that kitchen employees work hard and really want to get patients' meals right, but computers don't necessarily aid their efforts.

The most important thing I've learned is that the experience of a meal in a hospital MUST NOT BE AN ADDED AGGRAVATION for patients, families, or staff. Did I mention I look really cute in a hairnet?

*We won't discuss minimum wage legislation at this time.


Labels & LePage's

What a LaBrea of melted caramel are these blog labels to the library junkie?! I'm sucked into the warm, soft, stickiness of sorting a thousand plus blog posts by subject. What could a cataloger like more than a hot caramel sundae with heaping considerations of generality, specificity, nuts and whipped cream ? I'm slowly seeing that this blog is a strange collage of loosely glued connections.

My early school years were not just spent taste-testing white paste. We also used brown LePage's mucilage glue in the curvy bottle with the pink rubber dispenser cap. My mom used fragrant rubber cement to make my baby scrapbook. Elmer's didn't appear in my world until the mid-Sixties.

Mucilage is not to be confused with the obnoxious, fat, and green ad campaign character for Mucinex.
c.1400, "viscous substance from vegetable material soaked in water," from O.Fr. mucilage (14c.), from L.L. mucilago "musty or moldy juice" (4c.), from L. mucere "be musty or moldy," from mucus "mucus." Meaning "adhesive" is first attested 1859.

Texas Railroad Commission

Tx.rr.com is the email address for users of Time Warner Cable's Roadrunner system in North Texas. Last summer Time Warner took over all the Comcast internet service systems around North Texas. Time Warner promised to make the changeover pleasant and user-friendly. Right.

Time Warner hopes to ease pain of shift
Comcast e-mail clients will feel the transition most of all, exec says

08:09 AM CDT on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 Dallas Morning News

Comcast had a very usable email format. Time Warner's is primitive by comparison, and trying to use rich text instead of plain text is SOOOOOO SLOW. The changeover has me feeling like Snidely Whiplash tied me to the railroad tracks.

As my email correspondents have been booted over to Roadrunner, I keep staring at their email addresses and wondering when they went to work for the Railroad Commission. We are all looking at other options for internet and email. None of us are pleased about being tied to Time Warner.


Mullygrubs and collywobbles

O, the woe! Awoke with a stomach ache. Ate some of the bread dough before I baked the runzas last night. Now I have etymological difficulties compounding my intestinal discomfort.

Does eating too many fresh baked goods cause mullygrubs or collywobbles! This isn't Pierce, Nebraska. Where's Grandma when I need her? Should I call 911?

"fit of the blues," also "colic," 1599, fanciful formation.

1823, fanciful formation from colic and wobble.

- Punch October 1841: "To keep him from getting the collywobbles in his pandenoodles."
- Cuthbert Bede The Adventures of Mister Verdant Green, 1853: "A touch of the mulligrubs in your collywobbles?"

Punch 10/9/1841, p. 154.

...The new man, at first, is not a great advocate for beer; but this dislike may possibly arise from his having been compelled to stand two pots upon the occasion of his first dissection. After a time, however, he gives way to the indulgence, having received the solemn assurances of his companions that it is absolutely necessary to preserve his health, and keep him from getting the collywobbles in his pandenoodles—a description of which obstinate disease he is told may be found in “Dr. Copland’s Medical Dictionary,” and “Gregory’s Practice of Physic,” but as to under what head the informant is uncertain.


Aaron Burr told me it would be like this. Well, really, it was Gore Vidal's fictional writing about the elderly Burr that gave me my first insight into the experience of old age. At least twenty-five years ago the hardcover edition of Burr: A Novel called to me from the stacks of the Swanson Public Library at 90th and Dodge in Omaha. I will have to read Burr again to find if Vidal's character has the insomniac discussions with his internal organs that I seem to remember.

Awakened again by a nurse assistant who needs to take Dad's vital signs. The wheeled blood pressure machine rolls and bumps off the hall carpet and onto the linoleum. Fluorescent light flicks on and quivers. Again the jerk out of sleep with the immediate childlike fear that I'll fall "out of bed" off the skinny couch/cot. My head and limbs feel heavy and tingly. Dad's awake now, chatting, thinking he'd like some ice cream. By 2:39 the ice cream and nurse aide are gone. Light and muffled sounds from the hallway. Dad's snoring, open-mouthed, dry-throated, seven feet away. Wide awake I begin counting all the libraries I ever visited. Some number past forty-six, I fall asleep again.


Little Red Rolling Suitcase

Running away from home has kept my wheely luggage very busy this year. It's looking like it had an unpleasant encounter with the Big Bad Wolf at baggage claim on the way to Grandma's house.

A red wheely suitcase is easier to find than a black one at most airports, but not in the Cornhusker state. Half the luggage popping up and riding around the carousel at Omaha's Eppley Airport is red. One of these trips I'm going to pack it so it doesn't flip over on its back like the world's largest Orkin victim.

My very first suitcases all my own were red, too. I got them when I was about twelve for slumber parties, Camp Granada, and going to Grandma's. The teeny one nested inside the small one. Red naugahyde with black zippers. Locks that opened with dimestore diary-sized keys. A Petula Clark or Royal Guardsman LP could barely fit in the small one. Only 45 rpms in the teeny one--Penny Lane, Last Train to Clarksville, Ruby Tuesday, To Sir With Love...

I was still using those red suitcases (or sockcases) even after I was married. They weren't decorated with any registered trademarks of the Monkees or Donny Osmond, thank heaven. I even kept the small one packed with baby clothes, phone numbers, Desitin, and diapers in the car trunk one winter when I thought I might want to run away from my spouse. He wasn't actually physically abusive, but he did drop his used dental floss on the hideous pseudo-cowhide carpet every night. When you are nursing a colicky infant and sniffing Desitin twenty hours a day your tolerance for icky dental floss is mighty low!

'Lil Red Riding Hood' lyrics by UNKNOWN:

Who's that I see walkin' in these woods?
Why it's Little Red Ridin' Hood
Hey there Little Red Riding Hood
You sure are lookin' good
You're everything a big bad wolf could want
Listen to me, Little Red Ridin' Hood
I don't think little big girls should
Go walkin' in these spooky old woods alone


Folded Molly Ivins in the mail

Soon as she heard it on the news, JJ called to tell me Molly Ivins had died. So many times Dad had clipped Molly's column from the Lincoln newspaper to mail. The Dallas Morning News didn't have the moxie to run Molly's op ed, so JJ and I passed Dad's Lincoln clipping around the lunch table and tsk-tsk-ed about Shrub.

What is it about the intergenerational mailing of newspaper clippings that makes it the postal service equivalent of homemade meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, and Tollhouse cookies with nuts warm from the oven? What is to become of generations deprived of newsprint tactile experiences? Receiving an email notice with a link to an online news story with an interactive slideshow just doesn't say "I love you, but check your tire pressure" the way a clipping in the mail does.

Unfold the latest Leon Satterfield, the Calvin Trillin verse, Ted Kooser's poetry column, the obit of Velma from Avoca, or the grainy photo of the Virgin Mary image seen in an oilspot on a driveway in Valparaiso. Feel loved.

That clipping in the mail may be advice from Dr. Gott or Heloise, but it really says:

  1. I care about you.
  2. I want to feel connected.
  3. I want you to stay aware of your community.
  4. I want you to think about the future because I'm thinking about your future.
  5. I can almost see you smiling as you read this.
  6. I'll always be your mommy no matter how old you get.
  7. I'm proud of you for trying to fix the bathroom tile yourself, but you might need this information about grout.
  8. So glad I raised you to be an informed and questioning citizen of the world.
  9. Baking soda has an amazing number of uses.
  10. Isn't this ad for the ugliest sofa on earth?

Dad's Lincoln newspaper is being delivered to his room at the rehab hospital so he can stay interested and informed. He thought it was a silly extravagance, but I insisted that he read the paper every day. He's already wondering if he might want his Walkman, if only for Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. I think Dad realized that Molly Ivins wouldn't want him to just sit in the wheelchair and stare at his hands in his lap. I hope he'll clip a few columns using his nosehair scissors.

Zamboni at seven, no news at eleven

It's not a box suite at American Airlines Center. No hoity-toity hockey fans chatting around a private catered gourmet buffet at the Stars game. Sure, a few of the nurse aides look like they could play some pretty mean Roller Derby. (Always cooperate with the woman who controls your catheter!)

Dad's meals are appetizing, considering they are delivered to his over-bed table without candlelight or strolling musicians. The yellow jello tastes good even when served in the scary navy blue plastic soup cup, an aesthetic no-no.

After supper it's time to get ready for bed when the blue "zamboni" industrial carpet sweeper comes down the hall.

As a young Candy-Striper volunteer in the early Seventies, I was both intrigued and frightened by the muscular, mustached man who propelled the buffer over the basement linoleum of the hospital. I can still see his leer and the fat yellow extension cord for the buffer.


New elves for old

There was once an art teacher who worked very hard and was very honest, but still could not earn enough to live upon. At last all she had in the world was gone, save for heaps of clean laundry, stacks of unpaid bills, and a dishwasher full of clean dishes.

She laid out these stacks and heaps, all ready to fold, shuffle, and unload, meaning to rise early in the morning and get to work (right after she drank a pot of black coffee and skimmed the Dallas Morning News). Her conscience was clear and her heart light amidst all her troubles. Alas, her father fractured his femur, and she left her thatched cottage all in a rush before the first birds twittered to wake the day.

The art teacher consigned her Texas cares to Heaven and went to Nebraska without passing Go or collecting $200. She fell asleep for brief periods on the cot in Dad's hospital room between blood pressure readings, phlebotomists' struggles with uncooperative veins, and the incessant beeping of IV machines.

After twelve days, the art teacher returned to Texas, surveyed her condo, and to her great wonder, found that elves had not done ANYTHING. Not one dang thang! She knew not what to say or think at such an odd thing not happening. What were those elves doing all this time? Riding around in Willie Nelson's biodiesel limo? The overflowing basket of laundry was still unfolded. The bills were still unpaid. Clean dishes still filled the not-yet-paid-off GE dishwasher. The elves hadn't put clean sheets on the bed, deleted the spam e-mail, or ousted the scary celery in the vegetable crisper.

"This celery should go to the dumpster," she said. "Who will take it to the trash?"
"Not us," said the elves.

"These clothes are wrinkled," she said. "Who will froof them in the dryer, then hang and fold them?"
"Not us," said the elves.

"My feet hurt," she said. "You elves have anything new in your footwear department?" "Not us," said the elves. "Most folks just wear flip-flops these days."

"Well, if you think I'm going to share my fresh-baked Jiffy Mix corn muffins or sew you guys teeny-tiny leiderhausen to cover your nakedness, you are sadly mistaken," said the increasingly disgruntled art teacher.

"Doesn't matter," said the elves, looking up from their text-messaging. "We used your credit card to buy a genie on eBay, a vowel on Wheel Of Fortune, and a timeshare at a nudist colony. Plus, the Antiques Roadshow guy appraised this lamp."


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