I'm working on my brackets, Mom.

IWOMBM is the new YRMLM. I've pretty much quit ruining my sons' lives now that they are all twentysomethings. They have to decide what classes to take in college, whether to go to grad school, if they should live in the dorm, if they should fall in love, all that stuff. They are making good choices without my help. It nice not hearing any of them say, "You ruined my life, Mom."
<--Exhibit A brackets from the Container Store.

IWMBM* is what I heard during the guys' overlapping spring breaks. Relaxing guys like to lounge on the sofa half-watching Rachael Ray on the Food Network and half-working on their brackets. These "brackets" seem to be for hanging basketballs.

My dad made a bulletin board for the room I shared with my sister. Mom had painted the bedroom a nice light green. She made cute drapes with pink, red, and coral flowers and moss green leaves. She made green bedspreads, and even bought a red rug for between our beds. Dad's part of the room redo was the bulletin board and a desk. He had already built dresser drawers into the closet.

Dad told us the bulletin board would have brackets for hanging shelves. Maybe I had an ear infection, but I kept thinking we would hang shells on the brackets (whatever brackets were). It was worrisome, since I had no seashells to hang. Lincoln, Nebraska is pretty landlocked when it comes to seashells! Did she sell seashells by the seashore? Would that be Dinah Shore selling the seashells? She must have picked them up when she was seeing the USA in her Chevrolet. How would she hang them on her brackets?

Dad eventually finished the desk and bulletin board with its shelves on brackets. They still look great in my old bedroom, even if it isn't green and pink these days. About thirty years later I finally made it to the seashore with my sons and collected lots of shells.

This bracket stuff could be a great way to fiddle away time while Rachael Ray chops the fresh cilantro. Sunday's Dallas Morning News featured brackets from The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything. Who should I choose in Crosswordese vs. Scrabble words? What about C-SPAN vs. pledge drives? Now I just need some EBTDM. Would someone please explain brackets to their dear mom?

* Pronounced "I wim bim".

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Privacy matters

Way back in my childhood, right after the dinosaurs died out, there was a Nebraska elected official who had his office door taken off its hinges to symbolize openness in government. It might have been Norbert Tiemann, as I doubt it was Frank Morrison or James Exon. Growing up in a one-bathroom house, I didn't know much about privacy or political wheely-dealing behind closed doors. We had some basic rules for bathroom sharing:

1. Don't flush the toilet while someone is showering or they will be scalded.
2. Three squares of toilet paper is enough for all but the most extreme situations.
3. The red plastic drinking cup is for the person with strep throat only.
4. Grownups get really crabby when they have to use the plunger.
5. You darn well better learn to roll your hair on those big rollers with Dippity-Do fast enough so your whole family isn't lined up to use the bathroom. Otherwise, just plan to wear your hair short and straight your whole life.
5. If you shave your legs, you better clean the bathtub with Comet or burn in hellfire forever.
6. Cowboys of the Old West ate dried apricots to stay regular.
7. If a thermometer breaks, it's very fun to play with the beads of mercury on the linoleum tiles.
8. Thirty minutes of piano practice a day cures constipation.

There were also some arcane rules for operating the exhaust fan. It was okay to "play school" while sitting on the toilet, teaching imaginary students lined up on the edge of the bathtub. It was not a good idea to drop your pitch pipe in the toilet. It was not okay to crawl down through the laundry chute to the basement to spy on the grownup's New Years Eve party. You could eavesdrop through the clothes chute, just not crawl through.

These days, the bathroom is as open as that governor's office. We took the door off the hinges so Dad could maneuver his walker more efficiently. If you need a door removed, I know how. I am woman. Hear me roar. Hear me remove bathroom doors. Helen Reddy's playing with mercury on the floor.

In Utah in '78 I had to use a gas station restroom that had no door. We were on our way to Canyonlands National Park. At Dad's house, everyday is a doorless trip to Canyonlands. Please don't flush when I'm in the shower.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

My Two Front Teeth

Dear Blogger.com,

I've figured out what I really want for Christmas, or much sooner. Pretend I'm editing posts and ready to add the labels. At the bottom of the form, you see the SAVE AS DRAFT and the PUBLISH buttons. Just above them are the Post Options, then Labels for this post: e.g. scooters, vacation, fall. This always distracts me. Did I fall off the scooter on vacation, or did I take that scooter vacation in the fall? Was it like Arte Johnson riding the tricycle on "Laugh In"? Did I crash the scooter into a post because I had no options?

Back on track, I start typing in the labels for my post in that long, skinny rectangle. Last thing in that row is Show all to open a list of all my blog's labels in alphabetical order. This, my dear Blogger.com, is where I want a choice. I want to click Show all for alphabetical order, then be able to click again for Show all by frequency. Then I could decide if I wanted to add more general labels, or something more specific. Right now I've got about a blogillion labels. Like any library subject cataloger, I'm trying to make those labels more useful. Is a label with 123 posts useful? Is a label with one esoteric post useful to the reader? I have 123 posts about art class projects, but a reader might be looking for the seventeen posts about using paper towel tubes, or the one clay project related to leprechauns for ages 3-4. If I could Show all first alphabetically, then by frequency, I could see that the best label would be Preschool art class projects.

And so, fondest Blogger.com, that is my wish. I want to click once for alphabetical order, and twice for frequency. It's just so Paul Reveresque. One if by land and two if by sea, and I on the opposite shore will be having a really bad flashback battle of the bands between the young Motown Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 wailing about ABC, one two three", and Alvin & the Chipmunks chirping out "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth."

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,

Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride

On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.

Now he patted his horse's side,

Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,

Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,

And turned and tightened his saddle girth;

But mostly he watched with eager search

The belfry tower of the Old North Church,

As it rose above the graves on the hill,

Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.

And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height

A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!

He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,

But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight

A second lamp in the belfry burns.

Koo-koo-ka-choo, Mr. Longfellow,
Bloggers loves you more than you will know.
God bless you, please, Mr. Longfellow.
Heaven holds a place for those who pray,
Hey, hey, hey

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


The Red-Headed League

Fabulous convention of redheads at the Dallas Arboretum Monday morning, and not just the full range of red tulips lining the walks. Everywhere I looked, cute young mommies and proud grandfathers were taking photos of darling redheaded children all clean, combed, and polished in their best spring outfits. Usually the Arboretum is headquarters for bridal photography, but I did not see a single wedding gown. I don't know how I got in, as the park seemed magically and unofficially reserved for the redheads. The man directing parking did ask me why I hadn't brought my grandkids, which isn't very nice to say to a youngster like myself.

If I'd know about the convention, I could have brought my Midge doll with the red flip hairdo. I'm glad to report the children were dressed in light greens, whites, seersuckers, stripes, oxford shirts, khakis, dress shorts, twirly Easter dresses, and no magenta. These mommies clearly understood Midge's first rule for redhead attire--don't wear pink.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


The way to a man's heart is through his toes

Holy cow! I had no idea the way to enlightenment was through your socks. Plus, I had no idea my Mr. Moderation father was in a cult!

Dad needed new socks, but he didn't want just any socks from Shopko or Target. Only Gold Toe socks would do. Dad said he didn't know where to find Gold Toe. I think he just didn't want to reveal the secret handshake and password of the sock cult.

I went on the offensive. I would find Gold Toe socks for Dad. I would even find Gold Toe socks on sale at J.C. Penney in the Mall Formerly Known As Gateway.

I've heard of people meditating upon their belly button lint. Then there are folks who clean the sock lint out from between their toes. The Gold Toe cult combines the two. You can actually join the sock cult online by registering for the Gold Toe email newsletter, Three Steps to Enlightenment:

Travel the golden path in a series of three emails.
The first illuminates the Gold Toe difference.
The second shows you the way to the right socks for your lifestyle.
The third offers an exclusive, one time promotional discount code to use for purchasing socks from www.goldtoe.com.


Bally, PA - During the early part of last century, two German immigrants founded a small mill in Bally, Pennsylvania to manufacture men's hosiery and as a tribute to the country that adopted them, they named their company Great American Knitting Mills. From the start, Great American set out to look for "golden opportunities" in the marketplace. Ironically, the most fruitful and long lasting reward was to come from Great American's humble efforts to answer the needs of Americans hard hit by the Great Depression of 1929. Consumers wanted hosiery that would wear better and last longer than ever before, so Great American introduced a sock with a gold reinforcing yarn sewn in the toe. Before long, Americans everywhere were asking for the durable "sock with the gold toe." GOLDTOE® hosiery had emerged as one of the leading brands in America, and The Standard of Quality in the Industry. During 2002 the Company changed its name to Gold Toe Brands, Inc.

Today, the GOLDTOE® brand represents more than one-half of all department store sales of men's dress socks in the United States. And in recent years, GOLDTOE® has been making its mark in new segments of the hosiery industry: in 1983, GOLDTOE® introduced a women's line, followed by a boys line in 1986 and a women's tights line in 1992.

GOLDTOE®'s Executive Headquarters are in New York and Operations Headquarters are in Burlington, North Carolina.


Dear Blogger.com again

Just wishing that the Edit Posts page had a toggle switch in the left column to see blog labels by frequency OR alphabetical order. Or maybe better, two columns to show both simultaneously. I love being able to add subject labels, but the process of making the labels useful requires some new tools.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Blog labels limited

Just finished adding labels for my blog posts of late 2004. Crying. Stingy eyes. My chest hurts reliving my heart being sucked out with an industrial vacuum. There are no labels for knowing your mother is dying, for knowing you can't prevent it, for feeling that pull on your heart, for trying to send your dad enough energy over the phone to get through the next day, for wanting to grab doctors by their ears and yell in their professional emotionally-detached faces. There's no way to categorize veins that can't handle yet another attempt to start an IV. There's no way to make the pain go away. It doesn't surface as often now, but the ache is the same. I look at my posts and realize I was trying to send whatever positive energy I had out to the universe to envelope Fritzi and strengthen my dad while keeping my head from spinning way off my neck.

While I was in Nebraska helping my dad move home from the hospital, I wondered often what Fritzi would want me to do. I wanted to grab Dad by the ears and yell in his face that I can't blog my way through this again. It feels like prickles and electric shocks all through my veins. I am as dry and brittle as the rice cakes I serve my students for morning snack. Rice cakes spread with wet concrete.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Sweetgum WoHeLo

Growing up in Nebraska, I didn't learn about sweetgum trees. School teachers and Blue Bird leaders helped me learn about maples, pin oaks, locusts, pines, balsams, Bradford pears, crabapples, willows, forsithias, pussywillows, lilacs, and cedars.

Nature-walking again with the elementary class. The students have magnifying glasses this time. We find some sweetgum fruits. They look like medieval maces. Camp Fire Girl leaders back in Nebraska would have a heyday spray-painting these splendid natural specimens before gluing them onto styrofoam wreath forms. Forget the acorns and fluffy sycamore balls, the Quaker Oats and Baskin Robbins containers and Contac paper. This is true craft nirvana!

I'm grateful for the awareness of nature I gained in my Blue Bird and Camp Fire Girl years. It's good to know when to sit upon your own sit-upon, when to put on insect repellent, and when to put our head between our knees to keep from fainting. It's fun to remember our group leader's awe-inspiring talent for twisting apples apart during long hikes.

Just wishing I could remember all the different beads:

Red--Sports and Games

These last four were for Creative Arts, Science, Business, and Home.

Chemists have found that the seeds of the sweetgum fruit — also called “gumballs” — contain significant amounts of shikimic acid, the starting material used to produce the main antiviral agent in a much-heralded drug for fighting bird flu. The finding could help increase the global supply of the drug, which is now in short supply, they say. Their study will be presented March 29th in Atlanta at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Chia Korea and Animal Rummy

Spring has sprung.
The grass has ris.
I wonder where de birdies is.

Tome Toles' editorial cartoon for the Washington Post made me think if Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez were a Chia Pet, he would grow to become Kim Jung-Il.

Played Rummikub with the afterschool four-year-olds. The game is similar to rummy, but I've next to no memory of ever playing rummy or animal rummy. The little kids have a better grasp on the game, so they are teaching me.

Animal Rummy was one of the childrens' card games made by Whitman Publishing Company. To the best of my recollection, the others were Go Fish, Snap, Crazy Eights, and Authors. I loved playing Authors and saying the names of the books aloud. Do you have "The Courtship of Miles Standish"? Do you have "The Charge of the Light Brigade"? Do you have "The House of the Seven Gables"?

Boys always preferred the interminable card game "War". They still do. Just ask Bush's own Rummy. Tole's cartoon accompanied an op ed suggesting Alberto Gonzalez may not have any more job security than Rumsfeld did. If need be, he could always get a new job selling Chia Pets on infomercials. Now then, do you have "The Prince and the Pauper"?

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Sell No Clem Before Its Rind

Back in the Seventies, Orson Welles did some television commercials for Paul Masson jug wine, in which he uttered the tag line, "Paul Masson will sell no wine... before its time."

Drying clementines for use in ornamental wreaths takes more time than anticipated. I'd been air-drying the fruit for a week or so when I got frustrated. That's it! These Lil Cuties are going in the oven at 170 degrees for about twelve hours. I'm going to stick some whole cloves into their little vampire hearts, too.

Okay, they are a little bit cute. Back in Camp Fire Girls, we would have spray-painted them gold and added many folded Readers' Digests.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Nature walk

Brought up the rear on the elementary class daily nature walk. I'm subbing in the classroom this week, and enjoying it very much. Our walk is along a little creek behind some dental offices. The children have been taking this walk after lunch for about a month, but this was my first time.

Most of the kids want to see how much dirt they can churn as they walk, or how far they can yank the arm of their nature buddy system partner, of course. Some want to call out descriptions of each piece of litter they see. Most want to find the ducks they've seen before, and feed them, but they are too loud. A few do a great job spotting birds, including some mourning doves camouflaged against the dirt bank of the creek. Some of them are already hooked. They are the ones trying to point out the robin on the branch, or scanning the tree where they saw the woodpecker last time for the slightest movement.

Contemplating a job change last fall, I thought I was done with teaching and good riddance. Teaching had never been my career plan. Funny, though, I find myself wanting to share with these little nature-walkers the joy of noticing the color of the brackish olive creek water, the soggy silver quality of the spring sky filled with windblown seeds. I want them to question why they draw that darn yellow smiling sun in the corner of their paper. Look around! Look up! Where is the corner of the sky? Where is that yellow sun?

Bird-watching is one of my most powerful connections to my mother. What wonderful hours we spent pouring over the pages in the field guide, studying details of color, markings, movement, song. Sometimes these discussions were on the phone long distance, each of us turning the pages in our own bird book. I can't help it. I'm wondering how the school could combine its Grandparents Day observance with a day of bird observation. Like learning to sit quietly with a bamboo pole and a red/white fishing bobber, watching for birds is best learned from someone older, more patient and experienced, very loving, but mildly disapproving.

My walking partner keeps his eyes on his shoes. When other children try to show him the robin, his attitude is all, "yeh, yeh, I got it, okay."

"What was that bird?," I ask him.

"Hummingbird," he says.

"Hmmm. What color was it?"

"Kinda black."

"Hmmm. Anything special about its tummy?"

"Kinda grayish. Mockingbird." His eyes never leave the dirt cloud stirred up by his shoes.

I am engaged. I can't help it. I want to teach him that the impact of observing nature is far more exciting than observing his impact on nature. I want him to hear the poetry in the names of mourning cloak butterflies, Queen Anne's lace, of cedar waxwings, and painted buntings. I want him to discover that a great blue heron standing in shallow water looks ever so much like a skinny, elderly uncle dressed for an evening at the symphony.


© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Assisted living is completely wasted on the elderly

College provides us with our very best and most appreciated napping opportunities. College students value naps. They tweak their napping performance. They seek out heightened napping experiences. They nap-train for both time and distance. We will not even ponder how they season and spice their nap creations.

Toddlers and preschoolers mostly resent their naps as a conspiracy by exhausted grown-ups. Old folks don't even appreciate that they have been snoring the afternoon away on a major nap they don't remember.

Parents of toddlers, preschoolers, and college students wish it was their turn for rolling up in a Smurf comforter and listening to a Raffi tape. Middlish-aged children of snoring old folks envy the chance to doze off sitting straight up in the wheelchair.

Assisted living: A small apartment with staff to help you put on your socks and change your sheets. Your own tiny kitchen and a dining room where you can order off the menu. Managing your investments online and a Texas line-dancing club. My walker is better than your walker. Someone to drive you to appointments. Time to wonder what driver the pro will use on his tee shot.

Dad doesn't want to move to assisted living. I do. When can I start?

In the next novel by Stephanie Kallos there will be a character partially named after my dad. I don't know if the character will be in assisted living. Being in fictional living is good, too. Now, then, it's time for my nap.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Irresponsible and frivolous

Taurus (April 20-May 20): You've worried about important things long enough. Give it a break. Surround yourself with frivolous friends and be irresponsible.

Opened the Sunday paper after a bad night's sleep. The horoscopes were right column, front page, front section. I never read the horoscopes, but there they were, just staring at me.

Got back from my spring break trip to move my dad home from the rehab/therapy hospital yesterday. My luggage arrived later, just after midnight today after a wrong turn. Woke up about 4 a.m. to worry if it was my fault that my little wheelie suitcase "failed to transfer" at St. Louis Lambert International. Woke up again at 6:30 to worry if Dad was waking up, and wondering how his first night on his own had been.

Might as well make coffee and get the paper. What's this?? Frivolous? Irresponsible?

My brother will visit Dad today, and my sister will phone him. I've been so focused on every detail of Dad's homecoming that I'm cross-eyed. It is indeed time to "give it a break". My walking partner isn't exactly a frivolous friend, but she might be convinced to understudy the role. After fifty, going to Corner Bakery for a salad/sandwich combo involving lime cilantro mayo is considered living on the edge. Running the dryer without a sheet of Bounce counts as irresponsible.

I'm popping Led Zep in the cd player and letting the important things worry about themselves for a long time--at least fifteen minutes. Please don't sue me!

1549, from L. frivolus "silly, empty, trifling, brittle," dim. of *frivos "broken, crumbled," from friare "break, rub away, crumble."

1648, "not legally answerable for conduct or actions," from in- "not" + responsible (q.v.). Meaning "not acting with a sense of responsibility" is from 1681.

1900, from Ger. Zeppelin, short for Zeppelinschiff "Zeppelin ship," after Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838-1917), Ger. general who perfected its design.

Many is a word that only leaves you guessing
Guessing 'bout a thing you really ought to know, ooh!
You really ought to know...

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Lil darlings

Oh my darlings, here come Clementines. The little oranges seem to be everywhere. They are just the right size for a snack, and so easy to peel that even my little preschoolers can do it All By Myself. Clementines are sold here in tiny cardboard crates, or in bags with the brand name, "Little Cuties".

I'd never heard of Clementines until a couple years ago. Had these cuties been using some other name? We probably just called them mandarin oranges, and were most familiar with them in the canned form. I figured Clementines were a hyped foodie fruit until I tried them.

Clementine's are the tiniest of the mandarins. Imported from Spain, Morocco, and other parts of North Africa, clementines are a cross between a sweet orange and a Chinese mandarin. They are small, very sweet, and usually seedless. Most people think of clementines as small tangerines, but they're a different variety entirely, with a distinctive taste. The Clementine is an excellent eating orange. Its small size and lack of seeds make it particularly popular with kids. Clementines have been available in Europe for many years, but the market for them in the United States was made only a few years ago, when a devastating freeze in Florida made domestic oranges scarce and expensive. A lot of oranges, including clementines, were imported from Europe, and clementines started to catch on. Over the past few years they've become increasingly popular, and as the demand has gone up, so has the price ... Clementines were first brought to the United States in 1982.

At Christmas all my sons were home and we went through two bags of Clementines in just a week. I couldn't help thinking about Laura Ingalls Wilder getting an orange for her Christmas present.

It doesn't take much arm-twisting for my walking buddy to convince me that we need some soup at La Madeleine after our strenuous weekend workouts. La Mad's creamy tomato bisque puts on as many calories as our walks take off. Last time I was staring at a natural straw decoration above a doorway as I savored my soup. Slowly it donned on me that I could see where this authentic traditional French countryside decor accent had been assembled with hot glue! Then I began to wonder if the dried produce on the sheaf of wheat might be Clementines with longitudinal slices.

My experiment drying sliced Clementines for straw arrangements is under way. If it works, I'll let you know. In the meantime, spring has arrived. I hear Richie Haven's singing his 1971 hit of the Beatles song, "Here Comes the Sun".

In the mid-Sixties my grandma used to make Orange Jello Mandarin Salad. It had orange juice concentrate, canned crushed pineapple, and canned mandarin oranges. In those Beatlemania years, I thought her orange jello salad was positively groovy.

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Dear Blogger.com

I love "labels" for blogs. I love that they bring in new readers. It's great that assigning labels is helping me understand the nature of my pontifications. My dad refers to my posts as "pontifications". I prefer to give them a rose-colored title of "ponderings". Thanks to my brother, I've been terrified of ending a sentence with a prepostition for, oh, so many years. "Helping me understand the nature of my pontifications," is just a way of writing, "figuring out what I blog about." Is there such a thing as prepositiphobia?

But really, dear Blogger.com, couldn't you create an easier way for folks with hefty blogs to edit past posts and add labels? I'm working on over one thousand posts. It takes way too long to navigate through my pontifications using <<Newest < Newer 101-150 of 1026 Older > Oldest>>

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder



What would Moira do? For over thirty years Moira has been a mental mentor when I get dressed. Moira didn't really plan to act to act in this capacity. Moira's main problem was a failure to plan ahead. This is a cautionary tale worthy of Aesop, or at least Maurice Sendak.

My part-time job in high school was working in the hospital kitchen slicing jello into cubes, making nutritious blender snacks, ladling cream of wheat, wrapping silverware in napkins, and ensuring patients received the meals ordered by their doctors. I excelled at putting exactly six vanilla wafers, three Lorna Doones, or five saltines into a wax paper bag. True, there was a good deal of flirtation with the high school guys on the dishwashing crew, but it was very educational. Except for starting work at six a.m. and wearing those cheapy white uniforms, the job was a lot of fun.

Students from the university served their dietician internships in the hospital kitchen. They were putting all that college theory into a practical framework, and we high school kids were delighted to provide them real life professional management learning opportunities. So it is a nice balance that Moira gave us real life wardrobe planning learning opportunities.

At six or six-thirty on weekend mornings when Moira arrived to direct our breakfast shift endeavors, she often had to wear her white uniform over a lacy black bra. Oops. This would inspire the dishwashers' derisive comments about where Moira had been overnight that she would forget to wear a white bra. We were all learning that professional authority is difficult to maintain under such wardrobe malfunction conditions. This is an important real-life business place lesson.

At that point, I weighed about 95 pounds, and wore a size 29 white cotton training bra under my white uniform. Moira's wardrobe mistakes generated much more interest. Whoa! What weapons of male distraction!

Moira is on my mind because I am printing photos on translucent vellum paper for my collages. It's a peek-a-boo world, so plan your weekend wardrobe accordingly!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Embroidery hoops

My elementary art students have begun a major project that will become their Mothers Day gift. They are learning the art concepts of line, pattern, texture, density, emphasis, rhythm, repetition, contrast, and variation through an embroidery project. I have only my sample to display, but the students are creating knock-em-dead pictures. We painted with plain old watercolors on muslin after tracing our drawings with fine-point pastel Sharpie pens. They are just beginning their stitching under the guidance of their classroom teacher. Since the project is a gift for their mothers, the boys are as gung-ho as the girls. The children find stitching a nice way to start or end a school day. I do, too!

Chain stitch, blanket stitch, Lazy Daisy, French knots. The big lure of embroidery when I was their age was the delicious names for the stitches. There was something mildly Parisian and risque in being able to stitch French knots. I related it to the rare event of having a babysitter when my parents went to see "Irma LaDuce" at the movie theater.

In Mrs. Alschwede's third grade room our "library corner" was devoted to the Childhood of Famous Americans book series. I read oh so many biographies of Quaker children saying "thee" and "thou", wearing gray, rolling hoops, and embroidering samplers. We recorded our wholesome literary endeavors IN CURSIVE on big index cards in blue ink. This was such a feat that I saved the index cards for nearly forty years. I remember so clearly Mrs. Alschwede's big nose and the fact that she commuted from Valparaiso, Nebraska to teach us beginning multiplication, and to read aloud about Howard Carter's discovery of King Tut's tomb on the day Kennedy was assassinated.

Third-graders rode a school bus to the Bennett Martin Public Library downtown for a field trip. The library was very new. The librarian helped us get library cards, and showed us where to find more wholesome juvenile biographies to check out. I know I chose Abigail Adams and "Jane Addams of Hull House". We tried to write our names in painful pencil cursive on the skinny lines of the book card. The librarian stamped the due date. Ca-chinga went the stamp. Ooh. I can smell the purple ink.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Main Street books

Jacquielynn Floyd's column in today's Dallas Morning News is about Mark Rice, and how he came to write a new book about the history of downtown Dallas. The book isn't available yet, but I look forward to reading a copy. It certainly sounds like Rice has done a great deal of research for the book, to be self-published by Brown Books.

Floyd says, "the newly published Downtown Dallas: Romantic Past, Modern Renaissance, is a beautiful jewel of a book. More than a handsome coffee-table volume for history buffs (which it is), it's also a memorial to the downtown Dallas that's irrevocably lost and a bricks-and-mortar guide to the history that's still standing, for those who care enough to look for it ... the book is a fascinating read, deftly interweaving buildings, history and personalities." I hope it has maps, and as much history as reminiscences.

I've recently enjoyed paging through a book about the downtown and main street of Lincoln, Nebraska. A Street Named "O", edited by Mary Jane Nielsen is a paperback with many photos, overlapping contributed reminiscences, a few recipes, and some newspaper reprints. Published in December, 2006, by The Lincoln Women's Club, the book is available at Lee Booksellers. It's fun nostalgia for Lincolnites and Nebraskans, but suffers from repetitiveness, a shortage of historical information, and a lack of maps.

Strolling down your memory main street is a good mental challenge. My Dad and I have shared some fun trying to remember, map, and blog about Pierce, Nebraska's main street and downtown. We're not ready to write a coffee table book yet, though!


Such a Whirlwind of Activity

My goodness, it's amazing what can be accomplished with a case of spring fever! All the winter debris is gone from the patio, and the storage shed is reorganized. The big black trash bags have been hauled to the dumpster. It's quite lovely if one is out of the wind. Maybe I'll just sit down, have a cool beverage, and pat myself on the back as I survey my lovely little backyard. Sit down on what? No wonder it seemed so spacious out here! My plastic patio table and chairs are being put to good use this semester as the elegant dining room furniture in a college guy apartment.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Tinkering with the new blog

I'm tinkering these days as I improve the layout for my visual art blog, MamaCollages. The New Blogger makes creating a blog so much easier than when I first made one right after the dinosaurs died out.

I just love Blogger's new layout widgets, and the little screwdriver/wrench icon. The icon reminds me of the times my little sons would play "barbershop" and style my hair with the tools from their Fisher Price toolbox.

The boys were also fond of playing "Braum's," because Braum's was their favorite restaurant. Playing Braums required constructing a restaurant out of the wooden blocks, then parking ALL the Hot Wheels cars at the block restaurant. Only then would they set up a table and toy dishes for their only customer. Mom would be the customer for hours at a time--ordering, receiving my order, eating, having more coffee and pretend ice cream, and paying. This type of play is so important for children learning the concept of sequence.

I never minded that the boys had the blocks, dishes, and Hot Wheels all out at the same time, as long as they tried to separate them during the clean-up. It drove my spouse nuts, though. Whether I'm creating a piece of art, a new blog, or an edible meal, I always have several types of playthings out at once! Considering and combining all the different possibilities is what collage is all about.

The Sonic DriveIn down my street has a monthly muscle car show in its big parking lot on a Saturday night. It looks ever so much like the Hot Wheels parked at the block restaurant, and always makes me smile.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Ticking away the moments

For a very long time I did not sleep. At least not more than fifteen minutes at a time. Not for six months at least. My baby did not seem to sleep at all. Humid August in Omaha. Dehumidifier in the basement doing its best to keep mildew off the concrete block walls. Hormone roller coaster. Put on a warm sweatsuit. Sweat. Nurse. Rip off the fleece. Make valiant efforts to burp the uncomfortable little pink person we'd brought home from the hospital. Zinc oxide and diaper pail, sweat and shiver, cuddle and panic.

The Miracle of Motherhood. Geez. So overwhelming and exhausting. No one to wrap me in a cocoon, rock me and my son, and tell me it would be okay; I would emerge as a beautiful butterfly mother. My mom helping ever so much, but still not enough.

Writing thank-you notes with lovely cursive during Jeff's five-minute naps. Addressing. Adding a stamp. Going out to the mailbox. Paralyzed. Did I write the note in English? Did I write it in gibberish? So tired. So hot. So cold. So unsure. So in love with my crying pink son. So wishing I could go back to the hospital where someone would make sure I was drinking prune juice and staying sane.

We put a big old wind-up alarm clock in the bassinet to help our son sleep a tiny bit longer. I would flop myself on the carpet in the nearest sunbeam. Ticking against the colic.

At work helping the preschoolers settle down for their naps I pat their backs. The ones I pat with my left hand go to sleep faster than the children on my right. It's my ticking Timex, I guess.
When I am in charge of the world, every hospital and rehab facility will have a glow-in-the-dark wall clock, a digtal alarm clock, or an Indiglo wristwatch for the patient. The patients need to know what time it is to get their bearings.

Dave Brubeck's "Adventures in Time".

Time is...

Adventures in time...

Time is too slow for those who wait.
Time is too swift for those who fear.
Time is too long for those who grieve.
Time is too short for those who laugh.
But for those who love,
but for those who really love, time is eternity.

David Laflamme, It's A Beautiful Day, 1969.

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way. ...

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, Thought I'd something more to say.

Time (Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour) Pink Floyd lyrics.


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