Stitching with C-SPAN 2

Way over on the upper left side of the map, an old friend is creating a blog for her knitting for peace and charity group. I don't plan to knit until I become a grandma, and there's no rush on that! It's just that I'm best at small knitting projects.

My walk-buddy says only old people watch C-SPAN. Okay, that must be me. I like to have C-SPAN 2 as background noise while I'm working on textile art projects. Parliamentary procedure makes me happy. Quorum counts give me the calm to thread small-eyed needles. When I glance up from my work, I can see which senators have $400 hairdos. I can hear which senators are jumping on The World Is Flat bandwagon.

On the good side, I'm not yet stitching pale yellow and green covers for toilet paper rolls or Kleenex boxes.
© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Oh, Gorsh!

My youngest student, when reminded to flush and wash, says, "Oh, Gorsh!," with his hands on his face. He mutters, "Goll durn it," while he tries to straighten out his jeans that got turned sideways in the stall, then marches back in to push the handle that causes that loud, scary flushing noise.

Oh, gorsh! I remember the coin-operated bucking bronco at the Hinky Dinky gorshrey store. Occasionally Mom would give us money to ride the horse while she pushed her shopping cart around getting the Campbell's cream of mushroom, Weaver's potato chips, Sorry Charlie tuna, charcoal bricquets, and shattered wheat cereal for my Dad. Usually we just rode on the metal railings between the checkout lines near the display of mittens, ice-scrapers, and accordian-folded clear plastic rain "bonnets" in their handy carrying cases.

Mom got the huge round cartons of All detergent for the worshing machine. We used the cartons as horses when we played cowboys in the basement while Mom sewed and ironed. We slapped the backs of our pretend horses because the Father of Our Country had a "slapping stallion". It was very embarrassing when I learned to spell and found out George was Washington, not Warshington. And so, spelling became a civilizing force in This Great Country of Ours.

Of course a horse is a horse. Maybe Mr. Ed should run for president, and corral that bunch up in Warshington:

Go right to the source and ask the horse
He’ll give you the answer that you’ll endorse.
He’s always on a steady course.
Talk to Mister Ed.

There was Captain Washington
Upon a slapping stallion
A-giving orders to his men
I guess there was a million.

Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy. *

For decades I've been confused thinking the Marx Toy spring-action riding Mustang was "Marvo". The Sixties were a groovy, marvy time. The mangled ad jingle pops into my mind whenever I watch Dubya down at the Crawford ranch:

Marvo the Mustang; he's almost For Real!

I'm set straight now. It was "Marvel the Mustang". Marvel has his own virtual online museum. The current retro remakes don't get very good reviews from toy-buying grandparents. Seems things get less "for real" all the time. Oh, gorsh!

* (Sounds like a Viagra ad!)


Stop in the Name of Love, I Mean It!

Hang up now! Young love used all our shared rollover minutes. Love is a many-splendored and text-messaged thing, a personally-toned ring, and a definite zing. But now it is time for Danger Baby to dip his quill pen in the ink well, and write a poem in his best penmanship to his beloved, then fold it neatly and mail it at the post office. Maybe his brother, the Woolly Mammoth, will have enough cell phone minutes to straighten out his Albuquerque utility bill. (Try saying "Albuquerque utilities" three times fast.)

Love is a many-splendored thing,
It's the April rose that only grows in the early spring,
Love is nature's way of giving a reason to be living,
The golden crown that makes a man a king.
Lost on a high and windy hill,
In the morning mist two lovers kissed and the world stood still,
When our fingers touch my silent heart has taught us how to sing,
Yes, true love's a many-splendored thing.

I just made a Supremes collage. I wish I'd glued a Nokia in each gloved hand. Is it possible to text-message wearing full-length gloves?

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Flying flea circus

The scissortail flycatchers have returned, and the corner of Custer and Plano Parkway is a three-ring aerial acrobatic spectacle. In this weird, wonderful week of birds, the scissortails are the performing artists. I wonder if my favorite choreographer, Bruce Wood, was inspired by these migrating dancers in their dramatic grey and rose feathered costumes.

Scissortail flycatchers led my list of reasons to love living in Oklahoma. With my youngest in his baby carseat, I drove the minivan around the scruffy Edmond area. The baby Woolly Mammoth got as excited spotting scissortails as I did, or maybe more, since he wasn't preoccupied with driving safely. This was the first indication that he was going to be the Nature Boy of the three. The youngest child can have it rough staking out his territory of expertise in a landscape dominated by big brothers. Steven showed pretty early that he would appreciate beauty in nature and do a few artistic aerial dances of his own.

So appropriate that scissortails are the Oklahoma state bird. The state's history and that of aviation are closely entwined. The state of Wiley Post, Will Rogers, barnstormers and wing-walkers, sings out for aerial ballet!

Soon after the birds arrive in the state, the males begin their famous "sky dance," a popular site along roadsides during spring and early summer. After climbing about 100 feet in the air, the male makes a series of V-shaped flights, then plunges down in an erratic zigzag course often somersaulting while uttering a rolling, cackling call. The performance has been described as "an aerial ballet of incomparable grace."

The Woolly Mammoth and I belong to the land, and we like to watch a hawk making lazy circles in the sky. I'm hoping my next trip to Nebraska allows for seeing some bright golden haze on the meadows.

Have a lovely Earth Day tomorrow. All the sounds of the earth are like music!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Bobbleheads to first 10,000 fans

The mourning doves on my patio look and act like the exclusive limited-edition Lou Piniella bobblehead dolls given to the first ten thousand fans at last Sunday afternoon's Cubs vs. Reds game. The bobbling didn't make Lou look very bright, and mourning doves definitely miss the MENSA cutoff. If you look up the expression, "bird brain," there's probably an illustration of a mourning dove.

This particular pair is trying to figure out how to nest on the back door security lightbulbs. I'm not keen on the idea of two white eggs falling off a loosely made nest of sticks and twigs and splatting on the patio, or of being awakened by such close coo-ah coo coo coos.

With apologies to Freddie Eynsford-Hill,
I have often walked down my block before,
but I've never seen a hawk outside my condo door.

Returning from an errand, I was stunned to see a very small greyish hawk standing on skinny yellow legs on the front sidewalk next to a baby bird. The hawk didn't move as I opened my car door, but turned its head slightly when I scurried into the condo to get the camera. When I came back out, the hawk emphatically put its sharp talons on its victim. I took one step closer, and off it flew between the carports and toward the creek with its sacklunch struggling.

You can barely see it in the photo, as it was just slightly taller than the curb, and smaller than a city pigeon. It seemed grey in the shadows. The striking thing, beyond the weirdness of the whole experience, were the bird's long skinny yellow legs. It didn't have the "eye makeup" or rusty look of the kestrals I've seen in the neighborhood. I'm guessing it was a sharp-shinned hawk.

Campus Walk

Since Tuesday evening I've been walking across my memory campus. Maybe you've had similar thoughts. As my heart goes out to the students, parents, faculty, and administrators at Virginia Tech, my brain tries to wrap itself around the horror. Underlying real life in the present, a continuous loop video is playing. It's the remembered walking and walking and biking around my university campus as if filmed through the shaky lens of my naive, inhibited, careless, opinionated, generous, self-centered, invincible, scared-sheep student 1974 self.

Names of the buildings scroll past in the supertitles. Learning my way from Harper-Schramm-Smith to the the third floor of Burnett, the huge lecture halls in Henzlik and Hamilton, or the odd 501 Building way over on Tenth Street for calculus. Riding my yellow bike in the snow between the power plant and Mabel Lee, around my dear Morrill Hall and Bessey to get a dime coffee in a paper cup from the machine in Oldfather. Late to Econ in CBA when sorority sisters can't quit Luke and Laura on General Hospital. Chaining my Schwinn to the rack outside Avery for the interdisciplinary Intro to Eastern European Studies with Jerry Petr. Cigarette smoke everywhere. Shortcuts through courtyards and quadrangles. Gravel parking lots. Grimy couches in the Union.

Honors freshman English with Miss Daniels and flickering fluorescent lights in the basement of Andrews. Savoring Tom Jones, Ibsen, and Lear. Rhetoric in a June mini-session with the amazing, rumpled Dudley Bailey, but without air-conditioning. Gene Hardy's childrens' literature class making Little Red Riding Hood all about-gasp-sexuality. Poetry-writing with Greg Kuzma.

That's the one that hits me. A dozen poetry students in a room no bigger than the offering envelope for Sunday School at First Plymouth. Pseudo-nonchalant lolling around the one table, always waiting to see if Kuzma would show up. So vulnerable, reading our little poems aloud out into the cosmos to be diced, minced, bludgeoned like baby seals. Not making eye-contact with the creepy guy in his camo. Yes. The older student back from Nam writing bloody raping poems and going off on long, violent monologues. Kuzma being hip to all that, so we felt like such high school babies.

Sitting outside Andrews on a stone bench that sunny, frozen afternoon all inspiration and deadline desperation, pouring out poems in blue fountain pen with cedar waxwings in the bushes. Tears.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Under Buttercup Siege

For forty-eight hours now I've been closely surrounded and bombarded by "Build Me Up Buttercup", the 1968 KLMS Top 48 Countdown hit by the Foundations. Every, and I mean every, Saturday I listened to the Top 48 Countdown on my transistor radio, often using the earphone that looked like an ancient hearing aid. When we walked over to the Gateway Mall, we picked up the printed 4.25" x 11" copies of the week's hit list. I studied the list the way my college sons study NCAA basketball brackets. We would blow all our allowance plus our hard-earned babysitting money on an eighty-eight cent 45 rpm of "Penny Lane" or "Georgy Girl". KLMS is an all-sports radio station now, having survived a "New Age" incarnation after its longtime Top 40 format.

So, this ruby Tuesday, I think we're alone now in strawberry fields forever. Something's happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear:

Why do you build me up (Build me up)
buttercup, baby
Just to let me down (Let me down)
and mess me around
And then worst of all (Worst of all)
you never call, baby
When you say you will (Say you will)
but I love you still
I need you (I need you)
more than anyone, darling
You know that I have from the start
So build me up (Build me up)
buttercup, don't break my heart

If you knew that buttercups are a toxic plant for horses you get extra credit and a bag of Montgomery Wards caramel corn.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Arbor Lodge from a distance

It is easy to look back at a marriage through a distorted lens. How could I, moi, have been so totally wrong about choosing a mate? Thinking about trees and Arbor Day eventually led me to search out the photo album of courtship and newlyweddiness (take that, Stephen Colbert!). The color photos taken with my Kodak Brownie Starmite have browned and faded in the "magnetic" album pages. Still, they show a happy, creative young woman enjoying hiking trips and outings with her intended. I can tell you about the cucumber and cheese on whole wheat sandwiches, the dried cherries from the food co-op, and the "plain label" beer on these roadtrip picnics. My painting professor could tell you about the saving and wiping out, the letting go of the "precious", the uniting and defining, the underpainting and glazing. A marriage that created our three amazing sons could not have been entirely wrong. It might be time to alter my mental self-portrait, maybe fade it a bit, but tinge it with some ochre sunshine.

Arbor Lodge is a Nebraska State Historical Park at the Nebraska City home of J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day. Fontenelle Forest is a natural gem in Bellevue, Nebraska.
And in the nicest way, take a hike.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Marc Simont

Thank heaven my detective case of the chinaberry tree reminded me of a favorite read-aloud picture book and a favorite illustrator. Marc Simont illustrated the 1957 Caldecott Medal book by Janice May Udry, A Tree is Nice.

Simont also illustrated one of my eldest's favorites, Karla Kuskin's The Philharmonic Gets Dressed. That delightful book forever altered my music appreciation and symphony experiences! I can't help wondering which member of the DSO is wearing the red long underwear.

Trees are nice. Reading favorite books in a treehouse is very nice, too.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Butterfly magnet

Butterflies of all sizes and colors have been having a party behind my back fence. They are enjoying themselves at the neighbor's condo. When I went out back, the air smelled like the fragrant lilacs of May in Nebraska. When I moved into this condo, my patio was shaded by a big tree behind the fence, but that tree fell over in a storm about six years ago. The condo changed owners a few times as a new volunteer tree sprouted and grew in a pot on the patio. One of the owners transplanted the seedling in the ground, and it grew like crazy. In five years it went from seed to taller than a two-story building. The tree is very gangly, sprawling about like a teenage boy who can't figure out what to do with his long limbs and big feet. Hummingbirds pause on its branches in the summer. Clusters of round yellow seeds hang from the bare branches all winter.

I'm suspicious of trees that grow this fast because of their weak, brittle branches. They can make a big mess of twigs and branches each time the wind blows, not just for you, but also for your over-the-fence neighbor.

So what is this tree that's attracting butterflies? The internet is so great for questions like this one. I found photos matching the leaves, flowers, and berries at DFW Tree ID, so I know it is a chinaberry tree.

The non-native Chinaberry is considered an invasive species that outcompetes native species in thickets, floodplain woods, and borders of woods. According to Wikipedia, the tree is unattractive to bees and butterflies, which I can see out my window isn't true. It is also a toxic plant, according to the Toxic Plant Database:

Meliatoxins A1, A2 and A3 are responsible for the toxicity of these plants. They are found in highest concentration in the fruit, but the bark, leaves and flowers are also poisonous. Many species including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, dogs, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, poultry and humans have been poisoned by chinaberry. Pigs and dogs are poisoned most frequently, usually by ingesting fallen fruits. They show clinical signs within 2 to 4 hours of consumption.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Dad's Dizzy

No, it's not a spring baseball reverie about my dad snoozing on the couch while Dizzy Dean and PeeWee Reese did the play-by-play of baseball games in the early Sixties. This time that apostrophe doesn't denote a possessive. Dad is dizzy, or he was yesterday. The doctors told him he might be goofed up because of crystals in his ears.

Unbeknownst to most of us vertebrates, we have calcium deposits in our ears. Bits of this calcareous material can break off and float around in the inner ear fluid, like baby icebergs awaiting the Titanic. These teeny-weeny otoliths sometimes impinge upon nerve endings due to changes of position and gravity. And wouldn't Impinging Otoliths be a great name for a rock band?? This type of dizziness is called benign positional vertigo.

Ear crystals sounds very New Age. Put an ear, maybe Van Gogh's ear, under a pyramid to grow crystals with powerful energy. In Bluebirds we grew crystals on charcoal briquettes in foil pie pans in Julie B's basement. True, I've met some children and adults who listen like they have briquettes in their ears, but this is not the case with Dad.

After Bluebirds, we entered Camp Fire where we had to meet requirements in science as well as nature, citizenship, art, home, sports, and other areas. When I showed some interest in electricity, Dad helped me by providing a dry cell battery, wires, a light bulb, pegboard, and a telegraph toggle for my guided experiments. He also gave me a crystal radio kit for Christmas, or maybe prompted Santa along that line. Unfortunately, all I remember about the crystal radio experiment is the red headphone set and wrapping the wire around and around a tube.

It's been forty years. You would think kids these days could cross two wires and disintegrate oto-icebergs the same way they defeat aliens on those video games. The possibilities are dizzying.

Otolith is from the Greek oto indicating ear, and lithos for stone; one of many minute calcareous particles found in the inner ear of certain vertebrates and in the statocysys of many invertebrates.

Calcareous is from the Latin calx for lime; containing calcium, calcium carbonate, or limestone: chalky

Crystal is from the Latin crystallum which is from the Greek krustallos. And here I thought krustallos were those burnt toast crumbs in the bottom of the toaster oven.

Impinge is also Latin from impingere to push against. To encroach or trespass...Maybe Encroaching Otoliths is a better band name.

Some Camp Fire science projects:
Learn Morse code.
Make a string telephone.
Record a mock radio broacast.
Write and send a telegram.
Make a crystal radio set.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Pondering embroidery faith

Over and under. Over and through, then through and under. Over the river and through the hoop. The K-2 kids are stitching, and it's a wonderful way to improve eye-hand coordination, spatial awareness, and spatial vocabulary.

We've been attaching all sorts of groovy stuff to pieces of net, so that stitches above and below are all visible. I've stabilized the net creations on felt squares. Some items sewn to the net are now sandwiched between the net and the felt.

The kids got to choose from a wide range of items to stitch onto the netting:

metallic punch ribbon
weird hardware
laminated pressed leaves and postage stamps
playing cards
pipe cleaners
sari fabrics
Formica samples
paper clips
jingle bells
cut up promotional credit cards

They chose their own path for the yarn and thread.

While their beginnings were fairly random, the next step will include compositional development, and greater fine motor control. Back in the early Sixties kids developed the same skills by solving dot-to-dot puzzles and "sewing" shoestrings through lacing cards. Somehow we arrived at the point where we could poke a needle up through fabric exactly where we wanted to start our embroidery.

How do we acquire that ability, that confidence that our brain won't let our hand below the fabric prick the hand above the fabric? Back in the Sixties we knew the danger of pricking your finger on a spindle. No bibbity bobbity boo for you!

These days with my old lady eyes trying to thread needles I have to rely on an internal sense. Maybe it is faith. Watching the kids wield their needles, "conviction of things not seen" popped into my head. Hope over, under, and through the net held in the hoop... Satisfying inner awareness without hope of Disney princess marketing tie-ins at Burger King.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Mission Control

The preschoolers love talking into their microphones to communicate with the class pet rabbit during his imaginary space mission. They direct the astrobunny when to wake up, to blast off, to fix the rocket, take space walks, to exercise, snap photos, and build the international space station.

They think the best way for astrobunnies to stay in shape out there in space was to do some karate. Yikes! Weightless lagomorphic tae kwon do!

The kids push buttons on their egg carton computer keyboards when they want to capture an image of a passing meteor or asteroid (or the ubiquitous smiling sun in the upper left corner of every picture). The "screens" of their computers are clear plastic bags. That way, they can change which of their astrobunny drawings is on view by slipping in a new picture. We included some colored cellophane to alter the look of their drawings. It also resembles the dreaded "blue screen of death" every PC owner fears. The kids spoke clearly into their microphones telling the astrobunnies to hurry back to Earth to fix the broken computers! Classroom pets have to be multitalented heroes. Give that bunny a sip of Tang!

At the spring music program a few kids spoke into the microphone as narrators. At our egg carton Mission Control, everybody gets to talk into their own microphone!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

You Will Go To the Moon

I never knew if that was a promise or a threat. I didn't want to go to the moon. I didn't want to be squished inside a tiny space capsule, or subjected to zero G's. The closest I ever wanted to be to outer space was drinking Tang while building a Lego lunar lander, or as my students would say, "a Yego yunar yander".

My copy of the Beginner Book, You Will Go To the Moon, by Mae and Ira Freeman, copyright 1959, is in bad shape. Robert Patterson's illustrations still seem part Norman Rockwell and part Twilight Zone.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Before this decade is out

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project...will be more exciting, or more impressive to mankind, or more important...and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish...".

President Kennedy issued his challenge just as I was finishing kindergarten with Mrs. Ballard at Eastridge Elementary. I'd made a snowman from three balls of clay, and identified the beginning, middle, and end of a picture story, so I understood three, the number of stages of an Atlas Mercury rocket. Seven was important because of John Glenn, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper, Gus Grissom, Scott Carpenter, and Deke Slayton. My mom was sad that Deke Slayton had a heart murmur and couldn't go into space. My favorites were Gus Grissom and Gordon Cooper.

Kindergarten was so lovely. We played in the kitchen, listened to poems about umbrellas, had a mid-morning carton of milk, put on our own boots and mittens in the cloakroom, and walked in a straight line with the other boys and girls. Artistically, I moved beyond eating white paste to choosing pieces from the scrap box for making collages on construction paper.

Mairzy Doats was impressed that my telephone number had the IV8 prefix. She knew the little lambs ate it.

Tomorrow my little students will make Mission Control computers out of egg cartons. Then we will send the classroom pet rabbit on an imaginary space flight. Thanks so much to Potsie, Fritzi, Inez, Vic, Gus, Mairzy, Norton, and Gordie. Thanks to all the little bunnies who made it possible.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder



You picked a fine time to balance mobiles. I don't know if Al (Sandy) Calder ever visited Alabama, but his art works are pronounced the same as the city of Mobile, AL. True, the word mobile is usually pronounced like Mobil Oil whenever it is capable of being moved from place to place or marked by the easy intermixing of different social groups. [In our current mobile society more and more people appreciate Calder's mobiles.] But when you are talking about a type of sculpture consisting of parts that move in response to air currents, PLEASE think of Lucille or Loose Wheel:

You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille,
With four hungry children and a crop in the field.
I've had some bad times, lived through some sad times,
But this time your hurting won't heal.
You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille.

A Calder mobile at the University of Arkansas art department. And no, it isn't "400 children"! It would be really difficult to balance all those kids, let alone hang them from the ceiling.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Easter thoughts

The empty nest isn't filled with plastic Easter grass. I've been limiting myself to one foil-wrapped chocolate egg or Hershey's Miniature a day. Each time I open the candy, I remember a short story I read forty years ago. I believe it was part of a teen writing competition in Seventeen magazine. The details are very hazy, but the story involved a girl saving bits of colored foil and other shiny wrappings to create an Orthodox Christian icon for some very selfless purpose.

By junior high I was already saving papers and magazine images. I loved special boxes and folded art like the triptych in the story. After reading it, I wondered each time I opened a stick of Wrigley's gum if I should save the foil. If I created an art work out of Juicy Fruit wrappers and Hershey bar foil, would I find spiritual answers like the girl in the story?
In a funny way, I did slowly discover spiritual answers from saving paper, although I never created a folding foil gum wrapper triptych. Creating art is a channel to spirituality. Protecting nature by recycling is another. Being mindful in choosing what I save and what I discard are components of both channels. In some ways the discipline of maintaining and adding to this blog is another channel. I have a great feeling of peace whenever I manage to take my saved memories and my mindful observations to create a story someone may appreciate.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Fabric departments

In the days before Consumerism and Product Liability lawsuits, we rode around in nonsafety carseats, and slept in cribs and playpens with unacceptable slats. Safety was all about not taking candy from strangers, and always covering filling station toilet seats with rows of tp.

Mom sewed most of our clothes, so we spent a huge chunk of our Wonder Years in the fabric departments of Montgomery Ward, Kresges, J. C. Penneys, Miller and Paine, Golds, and Hesteds. We flipped through innumerable Butterick, Simplicity, and McCall's pattern books, and tried hard to not get into trouble with the clerks or Mom. We learned the true nature of suffering without contemplating Buddhism or wearing Love Beads. We did select a lovely remnant of floral printed corduroy all in rusts and lavendars for an excellent Nehru jacket, though.

At Kresges and Hesteds the fabric was mostly large folded pieces and bolts laid out on big wood tables. The fabric smelled of sizing, the accumulated aromas of old buttered popcorn, coloring books, dust, blue parakeets, and yellow canaries. This was where Mom would buy yards and yards of corduroy in red, bright yellow, Robin Hood green, royal and light blue to make jumpers and bathrobes.

The fabric department at Miller and Paine was spacious, and smelled more of wool and yarn and well-sharpened scissors. I think it was on the fourth floor, and had windows and natural light. That's where I picked out the pattern and bright blue fabric with red and white Flower Power daisies all by myself to sew my first bellbottoms (with elastic waistband) in about 1967. I felt that the long-time clerks did not really approve of my choices, but I sincerely believed the pants would be groovy as I rode home on the bus after shopping.

At Golds you had to be careful because the fluorescent lighting distorted the fabric colors. The department had a low ceiling that tended to make children bored and restless, and moms irritable.

The clerks in the sewing department of Miller & Paine were extremely knowledgeable. They could tell the shopper how to lay out the patterns, and could even demonstrate sewing techniques on the department's sewing machines. At Golds the clerks would help you find just the right buttons and notions to achieve a look straight out of Seventeen magazine. Then you could ride the escalator down to buy some Yardley white lip gloss.

You rode up the escalator to the Penneys fabric department. Mom always had to go look there, even though she rarely bought anything. I bet it was on the third floor, because it was upstairs from the floor with the restrooms, which was upstairs from the first floor candy and nuts. Someone tried to reach over the door of the stall to steal my Aunt Shirley's purse, so safety became about watching your purse while covering the toilet seat and then trying to not fall in! I'm pretty sure it was a white crinkle-patent leather purse with a gold chain!

Montgomery Wards fabric department was a very small area jam-packed with endless bolts of gingham, children's prints, plaids, dotted swiss, and later double-knits, walling in small kids like an evil corn maze leading to a pattern book table crowded with moms and kids one step over the line from sane. Or two. It was there that we found the patterns and bargain fabrics for Halloween costumes and Easter dresses, winter coats, and flannel nightgowns. I still have flashbacks to the rows of buttons, thread, zippers, rickrack, and bias tape, but therapy is helping a little!

The Wards' shoe department was right across the central aisle from the fabric. The entire area smelled like the rubber soles of inexpensive Skips--the Wards' version of Keds. The shoes were in big bins, so you had to scrounge to find the right size. This is where we learned that Consumerism was all about checking for ourselves that both shoes of a pair were the same size, and that one was left and the other right. Let the buyer beware. In the cheapo jewelry department we could waste our allowance on John Lennon tinted granny glasses and surfer cross necklaces.

Let the kid beware. Next to the sewing department, and across the aisle from the Skips, was the escalator, fenced in with a cast iron railing with unsafe bar spacing. Down the escalator you could buy Hot Wheels, light bulbs, 45 rpm Top Forty hits for eighty-eight cents, and cotton candy. You could even imagine escape from a sewing department that seemed like a perpetual cartoon anvil drop. In a moment of incredible fabric-induced tension, my little brother stuck his head through the bars to watch the relative calm of the escalator. His head would not come back out of the bars. Firemen had to be summoned to release this Monkey Wards captive from his escalator zoo.

My own sons managed to get their heads stuck in the backs of rocking chairs, and their jaws trapped in mixer beaters. Panicking sons and their very pregnant mommy got stuck in the indoor playground slides of McDonalds and Richman Gordman stores. I probably could have sued Sunbeam, the maker of the mixer, for millions of dollars since the world has changed.

I went into Hobby Lobby this afternoon to buy some felt. I needed to cut nine one foot squares. There was one yard remaining on a bolt of 72" wide light blue. I picked up that bolt because it was easier to carry than a full bolt, and because I thought the store might give me the whole yard at a discount instead of cutting the 2/3 of a yard I wanted. (Boy, that's such a Seventies idea.) First thing, I asked the clerk if the felt was really 72" wide. She ignored me and went on folding a pink remnant, so I measured it to make sure. I told her I wanted 2/3 of a yard. Instead of cutting through the fold for a 72" x 24" inch piece, she turned it ninety degrees so that she actually cut two pieces 36" x 24" inches. I told her I was completely mystified why she did that, and had to explain to her what difference it made. I said I would take it anyway, since I wasn't making a 72" banner. I didn’t want Hobby Lobby to dock her pay, which is undoubtedly minimum wage. This is like a sixth grade arithmetic story problem with the answer in the back of the book. She never will figure it out. Very sad, but it didn't smell like either Skips or stale popcorn.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Container Trials

This is only a trial. Had it been an actual container emergency, you would have been instructed to move to your patio. The current color code level is fuchsia.
Actually, the Dallas Arboretum is testing various plants for use in small patio and balcony gardens "due to the rise of urban living". You can see the spring results during Dallas Blooms.
I'm sure you are wondering about fuchsia, as it is a word that will never, ever look like it's spelled correctly. It's a good plant for attracting hummingbirds to your small condo patio or urban living balcony, though.
"red color," 1923, from the plant, which was named 1753 from the Latinized name of Ger. botanist Leonhard Fuchs (1501-66). Not related to L. fucus "seaweed, sea wrack, tangle," also the name of a red color prepared from it.
Haven't you sometimes wanted to make notations on your family tree that you were not really related to that Latinizia Fucus Wrack, and, by the way, that funny red wasn't her natural hair color? If she had just married Leonhard when he asked her, settled down on the container farm, and raised a couple kids, she wouldn't have gotten into that whole sordid seaweed tangle. Fucus was her mother Lucretia's maiden name. Lucretia's family didn't have a container to piss in, but all the Fucus kids got an eighth-grade education. Latinizia's father, George Noble Wrack, was the youngest son of German immigrants, and was kin to the Republican County Wracks who later had the Ford dealership. It was only a rumor about the seven toes on the left foot.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Lavender's blue, dilly dilly

...Rosemary's green. When I am king dilly dilly, you shall be queen.

While my dad had his dental checkup, the bank next to the dentist’s office was robbed at gunpoint! Dad, wearing his clipped-on dental bib, was unaware of the nearby robber wearing a black hood accessorized with a lavender bandanna around his neck. What kind of criminal wears a lavender bandanna????

Not even a DQ Dilly Bar seems tempting at ten a.m. when your teeth are newly cleaned. It's chilly and your teeth are hyper-sensitive after awakening from their usual comfortable pond scum.

Fortieth Street and Normal Boulevard wouldn’t seem like a hotbed of crime, but then, Plano has had its own rash of bank robberies in recent months. You can view the surveillance photos.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Hula hoops vs. Embroidery hoops on Field 3 or Mamas vs. Dopplers

Mama is versing a hail storm tonight. Am I singing Our National Anthem at a Rangers' game in Arlington? No. Am I doing a dramatic dance with filmy scarves about that fundamental theme of literature, Man vs. Nature, as taught to me by Miss Madsen on a day when she wasn't throwing dictionaries? No. Were the Mamas scheduled to play the Storm before the game was rained out? Is this the Old Mama and the Sea? No:

O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air...

The sky is yellow-gray here, not red. I'm watching o'er the back fence instead of the ramparts or the backstop as the hail pounds down. True, there's not as much water gallantly streaming down my furnace as there was during Friday night's storm, but it's still a bigger condo roof leak than acceptable.

The kids on the playground were talking about the soccer teams they'll be "versing" this weekend. It's one of those mangled usages that makes Collage Mama more volatile than any Texas hail storm--in the same category as people chewing toothpicks in public, and men wearing hats indoors. What they do in their own trailer homes is their concern, but out here in the wide world they better cut it out before Collage Mama shows up on Doppler weather radar. We're talking Eye of the hurricane versing Hell hath no fury!

To describe an athletic contest between two teams, particulary if it involves a Mets team, or a college football team.Who are you versing tonight in the baseball contest? competing, playing against. Derived from the common term "vs." in video games where choices are either 1 Player or 2 Player (commonly listed as "vs."). This usage, while considered incorrect by many, is extremely common with young people due to their familiarity with video games.The Lions are versing the Packers on Sunday.

c.1050, "line or section of a psalm or canticle," later "line of poetry" (c.1369), from Anglo-Fr. and O.Fr. vers, from L. versus "verse, line of writing," from PIE base *wer- "to turn, bend" (see versus). The metaphor is of plowing, of "turning" from one line to another (vertere = "to turn") as a plowman does. O.E. had fers, an early W.Gmc. borrowing directly from L. Meaning "metrical composition" is recorded from c.1300; sense of "part of a modern pop song" (as distinguished from the chorus) is attested from 1927. The English N.T. first divided fully into verses in the Geneva version (1551).

1447, in legal case names, denoting action of one party against another, from L. versus "turned toward or against," from pp. of vertere "to turn," from PIE *wert- "to turn, wind," from base *wer- "to turn, bend" (cf. O.E. -weard "toward," originally "turned toward," weorthan "to befall," wyrd "fate, destiny," lit. "what befalls one;" Skt. vartate "turns round, rolls;" Avestan varet- "to turn;" L. vertere (freq. versare) "to turn;" O.C.S. vruteti "to turn, roll," Rus. vreteno "spindle, distaff;" Lith. verciu "to turn;" Gk. rhatane "stirrer, ladle;" Ger. werden, O.E. weorðan "to become," for sense, cf. "to turn into;" Welsh gwerthyd "spindle, distaff;" O.Ir. frith "against").
c.1230, from L. anniversarius "returning annually," from annus "year" (see annual) + versus, pp. of vertere "to turn" (see versus). The adj. came to be used as a noun in Church L. as anniversaria (dies) in ref. to saints' days.

Don't you dare forget your anniversary while you are versing Cletus in the watermelon spitting contest! And don't stanza close to me.

One of the most common manifestations of stanzaic form in poetry in English (and in other Western-European languages) is represented in texts for church hymns, such as the first three stanzas (of nine) from a poem by Isaac Watts (from 1719) cited immediately below (in this case, each stanza is to be sung to the same hymn-tune, composed earlier by William Croft in 1708):

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal condo.

"group of rhymed verse lines," 1588, from It. stanza "verse of a poem," originally "standing, stopping place," from V.L. *stantia "a stanza of verse," so called from the stop at the end of it, from L. stans (gen. stantis), prp. of stare "to stand" (see stet).

Not to be confused with:

Hold me closer, Tony Danza; count the head lice on the highway.

Cross stitch and gingham

Last time in Lincoln I slept on the pillowcase I made in the mid-Sixties. It's a bit threadbare, but the embroidery is stonger than the gingham. I remember it being a difficult project, so I must not have been very old. Later I made cross stitch pillowcases as gifts, stitching my friends' names on their cases.

Cross stitch requires perserverance and patience for the student and the teacher. I'm beginning to understand those Quaker samplers! Embroidery is also a very calming, focusing practice for students. Our kids need projects that counter balance all the point/shoot/instant/gratification/flashing/images of our current technology and culture.

With my ET tremor it takes perserverance to thread needles for the kids. Fortunately, they are doing most of their current embroidery project with their classroom teacher. The boys are every bit as into it as the girls, and they need the fine motor skill development. They are making lovely pictures, not simple cross stitch. If your child doesn't want to sit in a treehouse and embroider this summer, maybe they need their own special shady corner of the garage to paint scale models.

Learning to separate two strands from the six-strand embroidery floss was a personal goal as satisfying as learning to shuffle cards, roast the perfect marshmallow, use a key to open a lock, cut paper snowflakes and hearts, play jacks, ride a bike, tell time, tie a square knot, address an envelope, or scoop ice cream. I was on top of the world when I learned to make Jello Instant Pudding in a double boiler, and to open a can of tuna. Making french toast and grilled cheese sandwiches for my family gave me enormous satisfaction. I was proud to learn to whistle, light a match, identify butterflies, prune a rosebush, and jiggle the handle on the toilet so the water would stop running! Reeling in a fish was the best of all.

My sons loved learning to make smoothies, boil spaghetti, and make hot garlic bread. Their fingers learned to string beads and twist rubber bands to tie-dye t-shirts. They enjoyed taking photos with disposable cameras. They worked together to make Wally, our family papier mache alligator.

Our kids need to know personal satisfaction deeper than levels of video games and plastic soccer trophies. None of these accomplishments require sign-up fees. They don't take much electricity or transportation. They don't involve costumes or uniforms. Some of those childhood accomplishments nurture life-long interests.

It's hailing like crazy here in Plano. I'm so grateful I learned to sit and watch a storm by the front door with my dad. What a gift that my family applauded my first unburnt french toast! How funny to sleep on my forty-year-old cross stitch!

Sweet dreams!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Sherwood Forest and Emerald City

After enjoying some afternoon nature walks, we are considering the incredible variety of greens around us during art class. The children are mixing paints to make a wider variety of greens, and trying to use descriptive terms for the colors we mix. Greens vary in value, the relative darkness or lightness of the color. Greens vary in hue, their place along the spectrum between yellow and blue. Green also varies in saturation, being bright or dull. Greens can be described with these terms, for example dark yellow green or bright blue green. The color variations can also be described with more fancy specific names like lime, chartreuse, jade, swamp, pine, hunter, avocado, army…or even mint chocolate chip ice cream green!

Color adds such richness to our experience of the world. Color names add important distinctions to our descriptions of the world. Did you eat a cucumber, a pickle, or a Hot Wheels classic 1968 Camaro? I dunno. It was something green.

Growing up around Cornhusker football fanatics, it bothered me that the team colors for the University of Nebraska, and its fiendish rivals Oklahoma U, Alabama U, and Arkansas U were all red and white. We could not ALL be the best team in the known universe! We could not all yell “Go Big Red!” It was comforting to learn that NU was the Scarlet and Cream, which was clearly superior to Oklahoma’s Crimson and Cream, Arkansas’ Cardinal Red, or that dastardly Crimson Tide of Alabama.

Will it ever be important to know how to mix twelve different greens? Yes, this knowledge has a very practical application. As a MOBO, (a Mother Of Boys Only), I received many requests for army camouflage birthday cakes. The food coloring box has red, yellow, green, and blue. You’ve got a brand new package of plastic toy soldiers and flags for the cake top, but you have to frost the cake. The guests will arrive in less than an hour. Green is for GO!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Our show of shows

Spring Festival had a Caribbean theme this year. While the music teacher taught the little kids to sing "Day-oh" and to act out a story about a cat and a copycat rat, I helped them make little island dioramas and read one of my favorite books, Rata-Pata-Scata-Fata. The elementary teacher made a beach backdrop.

The little island dioramas needed some people or other characters to complete the scene. The preschoolers loved drawing the rat and cat from the festival story. They got excited drawing the boy and his goat from Rata-Pata-Scata-Fata. Best of all, they loved drawing themselves, their classmates, and the music teacher performing on stage. They dictated descriptions for each character they drew.

We scanned the drawings so the pictures can be made into a book. We cut apart their drawings, and laminated them, then glued each figure to a cork so it stands up. We get the corks from a helpful restaurant. Now each child will have a little set of their own characters to play with on the diorama stage. They can sing their festival songs until next year's Spring Festival, and be the narrator for their stories.

This kind of play is so important for developing imagination and vocabulary, and for understanding story structure. I feel sad when the little kids talk about getting to "lebel eleben" on their bideo games as they go shooting around the playground. Please let your kids and grandkids have lots of time for imaginative, dramatic play and creating their own stories, songs, and toys.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


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