A new big sister

My little student has a brand new baby sister. "What is your baby's name?," we ask. The student answers firmly, "Bah-ba-deer."

Baby Dear? That's what it sounds like. My own little sister had a lifelike, floppy baby doll named Baby Dear in the early Sixties. The doll looked like Eloise Wilkin's illustrations of babies in several Little Golden Books. The doll needed help supporting its head, just like a real baby. The doll also had hair just too tempting to a child who received a pair of left-handed scissors the same Christmas.

I read The New Baby to my sons hundreds of times. My Eloise Wilkin favorite from the Fifties was My Teddy Bear. I had a dress just like the girl on the cover.

Will the new baby really be named "Bah-ba-deer"?

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Newspapers, breakfast, & indigestion

My Dallas Morning News hasn't been arriving early enough for me to scan it at breakfast before I go to work. I need my newspaper to arrive between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. on weekdays, and between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. on weekends. As a hard-core lifetime newspaper subscriber, it really eats my Cheerios when the paper shows up after 6:45 on a weekday.

The day the paper wasn't delivered until 7:20, I called the DMN customer service number and told the woman I was cutting back to the weekend subscription (Friday-Sunday only). Explained to her while she smacked her chewing gum that it really sticks in my craw when the paper is late. She did not know what a craw is, and didn't care.

Waiting for a late newspaper ruins my breakfast. I might as well read the paper online, which cuts down on the recycling. The bad thing is I can't do the crossword puzzle while drinking coffee in bed with an online newspaper.

Some newspapers do more than ruin my breakfast. They cause indigestion. It's been many years since I subscribed to the Plano Unproofread. That newspaper should go straight to papier mache, just as some movies go direct to video without a theater release.

Papier mache translates as chewed paper, but a bird would find the paper stuck in its craw.

My dear old red American Heritage Dictionary has

craw n. 1. The crop of a bird. 2. The stomach of an animal. --stick in the (or one's) craw. To be unacceptable or offensive. [Middle English crawe. Old English craga (unattested). See gwere...

According to Language Log:

IDIOM: stick in (one's) craw To cause one to feel abiding discontent and resentment.

Etymology: like something you cannot swallow, based on the literal meaning of craw (= the throat of a bird) craw

O.E. *cræg "throat," a Gmc. word of obscure origin.

There must be an Aesop's fable to cover this situation... The Editor and the Early Riser, or The Crab and the Craw. I'll check my childhood copy tomorrow morning between 5:30 and 6:30 with a mug of hot coffee in bed.

Perhaps the late papers are a hint that I could check in with my tiny patch of nature out the back door instead of fretting about the news across the nation:

    Morning has broken, like the first morning

    Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird

    Praise for the singing, praise for the morning

    Praise for the springing fresh from the world

    Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven

    Like the first dewfall, on the first grass

    Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden

    Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

    Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning

    Born of the one light, Eden saw play

    Praise with elation, praise every morning

    God's recreation of the new day

    © 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Ready to cut

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Fine motor/fine costumes

Playing paper dolls required fine motor skills, patience, perserverance, frustration tolerance, imagination and delayed gratification. It would be difficult to find such a twenty-nine cent education in any toys today.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Ballet paper dolls

This book of paper dolls and costumes was published by Whitman, copyright 1955, and cost twenty-nine cents at Kresges over at the Gateway Mall. From the sales slip, which was tucked in the cover folder pocket (for storing your paper tutus), I can tell I purchased it on June 27, but I can't read the year. Since there was a one-cent sales tax on the twenty-nine cents, and another tax-free purchase for a nickel, I bet that I bought the paper dolls in 1967. That was the year Nebraska instituted a general sales tax. A five-cent pack of Wrigley's gum was probably considered "food", and therefore tax-free. I'm guessing Doublemint or Spearmint. By '67 I was tired of the way Juicy Fruit started tasting like pickles after fifteen-twenty minutes of chewing!


4 Ballet Dancing Dolls

Annette Funicello & Audrey Meadows.

Lt. Cmdr. Data? & Kerwin Mathews?

Found this folder of paper dolls on my last trip to Nebraska. Just pretend that the yellowed Scotch tape reinforcements are Ace bandages. As a kid, I thought the female dancers resembled Mouseketeer Annette and Jackie Gleason's wife on The Honeymooners. The male dancers seemed devoid of identity. Perhaps they were androids.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

How long can you tread water?

Came home from work and found red alerts from my Avast antivirus program letting me know that VBS malware was breeding like the rabbits on the ark all over my computer system. Rats! I should have gone to Vacation Bible School instead of weaving those sit-upons at Bluebird Day Camp. Avast.com can't seem to wrestle the VBS worm virus into the quarantine chest because the worms are being used by some computer process to eat holes in my files. Ack!

I knew it would come back to haunt me. This is all because I sometimes put all the pennies into the benevolence side of the First Plymouth Sunday School offering envelope instead of splitting the five or eight cents between the local church expenses and benevolence. Somebody up there was agonna get me eventually. I just expected it to be while I was still wearing itchy petticoats, lace-edged anklets and black patent Mary Janes.

Bill Cosby and my dad taught me how to saw. My dad told me to let gravity do the work. Bill Cosby taught me that sawing should sound like VOO-bah, VOO-bah, VOO-bah... The Lord told Noah to build an ark, and Bill Cosby created a wonderful stand-up routine about their conversation. The VBS malware worm has me peering into the bottom of the computer ark. Who is going to clean up the mess down there?

Two-sided offering envelopes were a strategy for Protestant congregations with regular expenses beginning in the 1920s:

Excerpted from Samuel A. Stein, A Guide in Church Finance, (Columbus, Ohio: Lutheran Book Concern, 1920), 11-18.

The one and best envelope system to introduce is the Weekly Duplex Envelope System. This system is recognized practically by all Protestant denominations as the most successful method at the present time for congregations to raise money for their own up-keep and for benevolences. ... We solemnly express the opinion that a congregation which fails to introduce the very best possible method in keeping with the tasks imposed by God lags behind in obedience to God's Word.

Here is a sample of the weekly duplex or divided envelope--one for each Sunday in the year. Study the reading.
The church, at insignificant expense, tells the giver fifty-two times a year what the Lord needs His moneys for; what His moneys are expended for. It answers many questions. In many congregations not half a dozen people half have a clear idea of what is required to support the Kingdom of God in their own midst, and their support is according to their hazy views ...

The system is decidedly educational ... Here is a system that leads up to intelligent giving. It instructs, teaches and informs regularly and repeatedly each contributor as to the needs of God's Kingdom. And it reaches more persons, old and young, than any other method. In the parable of the talents, Matt. 25:14, Christ teaches us to use our money to the best advantage of His Church.

... Cheerful giving ought to flow throughout all the year. The weekly double envelope offers this opportunity. "God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).

Regularity here means good order. Mild regularity is needed everywhere--in the clock, in the home, in the state, and why not in the church?
What happens in the biggest business concerns if irregularity creeps in? The Church of Christ is the biggest business on this planet. Regularity and good method cannot be separated. A minister, layman, or congregation can accomplish more with good methods than without them. There is a business side to the church ... Method and habit go together. Much of Christian virtue consists in good habits. A good act comes from faith; often repeated it becomes a good habit.

... Many Sunday Schools use the weekly double envelopes. Their use is of great educational value

... Several months ago we read: The envelope system was introduced recently into a leper church in Siam. In imitation of their more fortunate brethren, the lepers with mutilated fingers made their own envelopes out of scraps of white paper from a mission press. On the first Sunday under the new system their offerings increased from 60 cents to $1.44...

...The old custom that the head of the family should pay for all is out of date. And why should the husband not give his wife money for the Kingdom of God as well as he gives her money for a new hat? All housewives that have an allowance certainly ought to give to Christ's Church. Then, remember, it is the Christian Church that has given to woman the high place that God wants her to have. Parents give their children money for useful and often even for useless things; why not for the Church?

A certain father was liberal and the main financial supporter of a church. When he died the church was hardly able to survive the financial loss. How about his large family? Oh, the sons and daughters give practically nothing. They were not taught to give. Pa always gave for themThe training feature of the weekly duplex envelope system is great. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6).

Giving belongs to true religion. Christian giving is worship. "Honor the Lord with your substance." We worship God by paying as well as by praying. ... Some insist upon paying by the year; but God gives us grace every moment. It seems when the Christian congregation on the day of its Lord hears: "He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9), it ought to respond also with money. The weekly duplex envelopes give the opportunity to all worshippers to give of their substance "upon the first day of the week," "the Lord's day." This is one of the underlying ideas of this method.

...God is the owner of all money. He gives it to us. We are not the absolute owners, but stewards. Some of the money God gave us we received for the purpose of using it for the upbuilding of his Kingdom. How much? A percentage need and cannot be stated here--that would be legalism; but this much is certain that we ought to give a fair share of what He gave us. That means, in dollars, much more for the rich man than for the poor. God's Word lays down a certain principle: "Every man should give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee" (Deut. 16:17). "According to ability": "As God hath prospered," "not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).

Now, is it reasonable and God-pleasing for a man to hold off bringing an offering to the Lord until some festival, or until six months or the congregational year is up, and then try to figure out what proportionate giving is? Does the good Lord not give to each one every day in the week; and would it not be much more reasonable for him to bring his offerings each Lord's Day? A man says: "I'll pay mine in a lump when the year is up." Suppose he wants to see then how the Lord has prospered him. Well, we do not see how he can see at the end of the year whether or not the Lord has prospered him, if he cannot see it now. Experience shows that he never gives a due portion. Moreover, what right has a man to hold up "his share" for months when the Church of Christ needs it today? ... Many Christians hate to think of the old way of giving. We can see no doctrinal difficulties in the new may. We know the Spirit of God says, "Give as the Lord hath prospered you," and the weekly plan reminds us of this, offers the opportunity for it and encourages us to do so. It makes the service of love easier. Is it right to tempt to covetousness by unsuccessful methods?

Oh, and VBS malware isn't really divine retribution. Visual Basic Script seems to be a handy tool for folks who like to disrupt a wide swath of computer communications and functions. I hope Fat Albert sits on them.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Fry Babies and Weed Whackers

The day after the harvest gold blender leaked all over the place when we were making a fruit smoothie with the preschoolers for their weekly "cooking" activity, Tammy Faye died, and I discovered my Presto hot air corn popper in the deepest recesses of the kitchen cupboard, unused for at least five years. Bumped my head on the cupboard shelf, but I didn't cry, and my mascara didn't run! It just set me off pondering the last thirt-five years of small household appliances, aggravated by the reissue of the recall on Hasbro Easy Bake ovens.

We received a hand-mixer, a blender, and a steam iron in lovely harvest gold as wedding presents. Our first crockpot was avocado green, although I'd probably never even seen an avocado in 1977.

[Lincoln had two "real" Mexican restaurants, one near 11th and Q, and the other near 48th and R streets. We had a new Ticos Restaurant on 17th that still exists, Taco John's and a Taco Bell. Grocery stores had six to eight aisles in that primitive time, and fresh produce selections were not the international, exotic and out-of-season extravaganzas we see now. Except for one brief encounter with Romaine and endive in Mrs. Starr's seventh grade Home Ec class, salad lettuce meant iceberg. Looseleaf was that soggy leaf for decoration under your canned pear half and cottage cheese in the hospital cafeteria. Of course my preschoolers still think lettuce is called "salad".]

We also received a Presto Fry Baby, aka Presto Fry Daddy, Jr. They were very hot items that year, but we exchanged it for a Salton yogurt maker. I didn't use the steam iron much because we were dressing in Dacron polyester and Quiana!

We had an electric skillet, of course, a waffle iron, a Presto electric percolator, and a greasy golden popcorn popper that survived the dorm years. I still had my big yellow hair dryer, although my sister was all about blow dryers, steam rollers, and curling irons. I still had the pink electric blanket my great aunt bought me in 1967, and the electric typewriter I got for high school graduation.

My parents had an electric knife, and an electric charcoal starter for the broiler. My uncle liked to send kitchen Christmas gifts, so they had an electric warming tray, a fondue set, a crepe maker, a wok (whatever for!?)

My new in-laws had an electric can opener for the cat food, a Mr. Coffee, grow lights, a Clairol Foot Fixer, an electric pencil sharpener, a Weedeater, an intercom system, and a new-fangled microwave oven. I held out against microwave ovens until 1985, because I was sure they caused cancer in rats.

By 1980 we all had DustBusters. We still got to choose between a toaster, an electric heating pad, and a bathroom scale when we opened a bank account after moving to Omaha. It would be fifteen more years before I owned a hot glue gun. My ex actually bought one of those Wagner Power Painters seen on cable infomercials, and made a huge mess!

In recent years, at my sons' suggestions, I've acquired an electric coffee grinder, a George Foreman grill, and a toaster oven.

So which ones do I actually use?

Once a day
  • Microwave oven
  • Mr. Coffee
  • Toaster oven

Once a week

  • Coffee grinder
  • Blender
  • Electric skillet
  • Wok--not electric

Once a month

  • Steam iron
  • Blow dryer
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Hot glue gun
  • Crockpot
  • Hand mixer

Once a year

  • Curling iron

How often do I eat an avocado? Once a week!

Microwave history:

The First "Radarange"

In 1947, Raytheon demonstrated the world's first microwave oven and called it a "Radarange," the winning name in an employee contest. Housed in refrigerator-sized cabinets, the first microwave ovens cost between $2,000 and $3,000. Sometime between 1952-55, Tappan introduced the first home model priced at $1295. In 1965 Raytheon acquired Amana Refrigeration. Two years later, the first countertop, domestic oven was introduced. It was a 100-volt microwave oven, which cost just under $500 and was smaller, safer and more reliable than previous models.

By 1975 Sales of Microwave Ovens Exceeded that of Gas Ranges

Technological advances and further developments led to a microwave oven that was polished and priced for the consumer kitchen. However, there were many myths and fears surrounding these mysterious new electronic "radar ranges." By the seventies, more and more people were finding the benefits of microwave cooking to outweigh the possible risks, and none of them were dying of radiation poisoning, going blind, sterile, or becoming impotent (at least not from using microwave ovens). As fears faded, a swelling wave of acceptance began filtering into the kitchens of America and other countries. Myths were melting away, and doubt was turning into demand.

By 1975, sales of microwave ovens would, for the first time, exceed that of gas ranges. The following year, a reported 17% of all homes in Japan were doing their cooking by microwaves, compared with 4% of the homes in the United States the same year. Before long, though, microwave ovens were adorning the kitchens in over nine million homes, or about 14%, of all the homes in the United States. In 1976, the microwave oven became a more commonly owned kitchen appliance than the dishwasher, reaching nearly 60%, or about 52 million U.S. households. America's cooking habits were being drastically changed by the time and energy-saving convenience of the microwave oven. Once considered a luxury, the microwave oven had developed into a practical necessity for a fast-paced world.

An expanding market has produced a style to suit every taste; a size, shape, and color to fit any kitchen, and a price to please almost every pocketbook. Options and features, such as the addition of convection heat, probe and sensor cooking, meet the needs of virtually every cooking, heating or drying application. Today, the magic of microwave cooking has radiated around the globe, becoming an international phenomenon.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Burchfield's Nature

Thirty-seven years ago I flipped through a TIME magazine and spotted an image that still haunts and inspires me. I tore the story out of the magazine, and filed it in my first file cabinet. That image was Charles E. Burchfield's painting, "Dandelion Seed Heads and the Moon." It felt true to my experiences watching sphinx moths around the honeysuckle, catching fireflies, clover, dandelions, playing hide and seek outside just before bedtime, and spitting watermelon pits in the dark. It was beautiful, eerie, and symbolic.

Charles Burchfield's painting gave me a new way to look at the soft, rich, dark colors of evening, the glows, hums, and flutters against the window screen. It was a wonderful bridge between my personal summertime experiences, and Van Gogh's "Starry Night."

Twenty-five years passed. I became an accidental art teacher and sometime storytime lady. I pasted the Burchfield image on a sheet of paper with another saved image of a dandelion seed head. This week I dug that paper out of an old file to show students.

Children are so involved in organized activities from dawn to dusk now. Do they ever get to sit on the warm concrete driveway watching for sphinx moths, listening to cicadas, watching fireflies, and eating fresh strawberries dipped in powdered sugar? Do they have to register for a team for competitive watermelon pit-spitting or an enrichment class to learn Bing cherry fence crooning? Does anyone have an old canning jar for catching fireflies?

From the 6/15/70 TIME:

"As an artist grows older," Burchfield explained, "he has to fight disillusionment and learn to establish the same relation to nature as an adult as he had when a child." That was no mean task. His greatness was that, through the alchemy of paint, he was able to restore that childhood wonder for others too. As the [Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute in Utica, N.Y] Institute's Joseph Trovato put it: "It is not given to any one man to tell the whole story of the world of nature, but Burchfield tells a very important part—a part that touches us all. We will never be able to see the world in the same way again."

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


To hold their pants up

Dad wants to know why crews have spent many hours working on each fire hydrant in the neighborhood just to paint them bright red again. Why red?

This is a good meditation while walking around the neighborhood. I wish Bennett Cerf could stroll with me. I've driven through towns where somebody decided it would be fun to paint the fire hydrants to look like dalmations, or circus clowns, robots, elves, or old-timey policemen.

My theory is that bright red hydrants are invisible to all except those who are looking for a place to connect the fire hose. Hydrants painted like dalmations are cute for the first week, then annoying for the next five years.

What's your theory?

Q. What time is it when an elephant sits on a fence? A. Time to get a new fence.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


The Little Squeegy Bug

Set out to find some children's books about fireflies, and found history as well. My students will be making art relating Van Gogh's "Starry Night" painting to our current unit on insects.

Last time I was home with my dad, I was entranced by the nightly firefly show in his backyard. The best evening was the third of July. As neighbors were beginning their family firework fun, Dad's backyard became a haven for rabbits. The rabbits and I watched the fireflies, with occasional dramatic back lighting by fireworks, leaving little bunny silhouettes inside my eyelids.

The Little Squeegy Bug was one of my very first books, and perhaps a baby gift. A plain little bug who wanted a stinger, the little squeegy bug received a lantern to hang from his tail instead. The illustrations had a certain mid-century feel that William Joyce reawakened many years later with his The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs.

My childhood book disintegrated decades ago, and I was stunned to see a new book entitled The Little Squeegy Bug at my library. How dare they!! But the author was Bill Martin, Jr., the author of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, to name just two.

In 1946 two young GIs, Bill Martin, Jr. and his brother Bernard, created the original Little Squeegy Bug as a project for Bernard while he recovered from a war wound. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about the book on September 7, 1946:

Our two little boys came down from the top cottage for supper with me last night and we read a delightful children's book called "Little Squeegy Bug", story of a firefly by Bill and Bernard Martin. The illustrations are just the kind that appeal to children. There is a moral to the tale but it isn't too obvious.

Squeegy is a little "nobody bug" who wants to be like Buzzer, the bumblebee, and carry a gun in his tail. Hunchy, the spider, weaves silver wings so that Squeegy can fly like Buzzer and live at the turn of the road just south of the Moon. But instead of a gun, Hunchy hangs a lantern in Squeegy's tail so that he can be a friend to all the world. Thus he becomes "Squeegy the Firefly, Lamplighter of the Sky."

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Attracted by the Duplos

Enjoying my leisurely visit to the Dallas Museum of Art, I wandered into the children's area in the Gateway Gallery. My inner child's peripheral vision had spotted a huge pile of Duplos, those preschooler chunky Lego bricks. I can't resist Legos, and these were the pure, basic, clean Duplos with no little people or trees.

Just the other day I did a little lesson with my students about building stronger, sturdier Duplo walls by overlapping like real brick-layers. The phrase that really got through to them was, "put the Bandaid over the cut." We worked together to make Duplo structures that could be picked up without falling apart, and they were purdy amazed. We also made a domed Duplo igloo, and talked about interior space. This seems obvious to you and I, but preschoolers tend to build by piling things up in a dense mound, instead of surrounding and roofing a space.

So I wandered into the Gateway Gallery to see what kids and parents were doing with all the Duplos, and found that the museum was asking visitors about how they connect to the art. There was a questionaire to mark, label styles to rate, and two pieces of art to write our responses. One section of the research asked the visitor (me) to sit in an armchair and put on headphones while I looked at a landscape painting. The audio asked me to focus my attention on different sections of the painting (top, bottom, sides, middle), then close my eyes and see what I remembered in my imagination. The next section involved seeing the foreground, middle-, and background, and then placing myself in those areas of the painting with my eyes closed. Another section asked me to choose the color I was most drawn to in the painting, then imagine being bathed in that color, and recognizing other personal associations to that color. That's an audio tour I could appreciate.

I signed up to receive emails about the results of the study. Participating enhanced my visit. Things to consider:

  • Do you like to view art by yourself or with others?
  • Do you like to listen to audio tours, attend lectures, or have a guided tour?
  • Do you enjoy having music and performances to enhance your appreciation of the art?
  • Do you like discussing art with other people?
  • Do you feel comfortable explaining an art work and its meaning to other people?
  • Do you read labels and explanations as you view an exhibit, or just react to the pieces themselves?
  • Do you like interactive computer programs to enhance your understanding of an exhibit?
  • Do you read reviews and critiques of exhibits?
  • Do you like to write your responses to the art?

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Fabulous Fans

Feeling warm? Take a little mental break and fan your imagination with the current exhibit of Eighteenth century painted fans on display at the Dallas Museum of Art. The twenty-five elaborate fans are part of a collection given the museum by Wendy Reves.

Painted by primarily female artisans looking at an example in front of them, the watercolor and gouache* images include political, biblical, bucolic, wedding, mythological, and travel scenes of great beauty and detail. Fan leaves are of silk, vellum, or parchment. Fan sticks of carved ivory were either imported from India and China, or made by the guild of comb makers and inlayers in Europe. The fan sticks are inlaid with mother-of-pearl, brass, glass or rock crystal, paste gems, tortoiseshell and silver foil. Clearly, these aren't the fans of simple folk. The pamphlet that accompanies the exhibit says a fan like this cost five to ten times the amount of a linen shirt.

A Painting in the Palm of Your Hand: 18th-Century Painted Fans from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection
June 17–October 14, 2007 Focus Gallery II

My own fan collection consists of one given me by my Nebraska great aunt, and probably about ninety years old. Its sticks are painted wood. I can't tell what kind of paper the leaf is made of, but it has an opalescent sheen. The design is painted or printed with watercolors and metallic paints.

*Gouache is similar to watercolor, but with chalk or gum added to the mixture of ground pigment and water, making it more opaque. Allegedly easier to control than watercolor, it has a livelier look than tempera. Tempera is also basically ground pigment and water with an egg or egg yolk addition to bind it together. Poster paint is tempera with a binding of gum Arabic or glue instead of egg. Casein, a milk protein, can also be used as a binding. The definitions and boundaries between these paint types are variable.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


August Sasse wisdom

Dont hunt for trouble!

But look for success ---

You will find what you look for --

Dont look for distress --- ---

If you see but your shadow

Remember I pray

That The sun is still shining -

But you are in The way. ----

Dont grumble, dont bluster

Dont dream, and dont shirk -

Dont Think of your worries; ,,

But Think of your work:" ----

The worries, will vanish -

The work will be done -- -- --

For no one, sees his shadow

Who faces The Sun !!! ---

Yours - with Eternal Love :,, your

Mother and Father

Dorothy and August Sasse

October 15th 1911.

Orleans Harlan County


© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

August Sasse excerpt #2

More from the handwritten biography of my great grandfather:

{In The Year 1879, our daughter Maggie was born but died a few month later;,,}
{The Year 1881 brought us our Son Henry who also died when but a few month old:
So Time passed with Sorrow -- Grief -- ; and happiness; for all of us:" --- --- --- Excepting The Year 1880, we raised fair to good Crops, and with the Childrens help; we got along - pretty well:,, but yet we needed help, for if one on the top of the list got married; it was nessessary, that another Took her place -- -- -- -- -- So on The 11th day of October 1882, our Son Nicolai was born; and promised to take The burden off The old mans shoulders -- -- but that still left your Mother, to carry her big and heavy load: --- --- --- --- --- Therefore kind providence was with us; and on The 15th day of August 1884 our daughter Dorothy was born:,, ---- ---- This made it an even dozen; That the good Lord had given to us;,, and as we now look back over the past; we must say: Father in Heaven we Thank Thee:" Amen!! In The Year 1885, we sold off, our stock on hand; for I was too sickly; to do the farm work any longer -- we rented a house in Orleans, where we lived, untill the fall 1889. When we moved to our farm 2 1/2 miles west of Orleans; and which I had prepared while living in The City. -- -- -- During our residence in Orleans [?] four years;,, I worked in a store --- and one winter I thaught German, to a Class of Eleven;, all grown Men & women. ---- ---- While here I was Thrown down, on my sick bed, for a couple of month, suffering from Neuralgia of The heart. -- and at the same time of Erysipelas over the whole head:'' - What I suffered, when near death door; nobody Knows but me -- and The almighty father in Heaven. From The fall of 1889 untill The spring of 1910. we lived on our farm, west of town; Then we moved into one of our houses; which we had built in 1909. and where we now live happy and Contended -- -- spending our old age, in peacefull retirement, and will not go forth, to any other home, untill The good Lord says:,, Come!! --- --- Now in conclusion, of This short:; and yet long life -- of your old parents -- -- let me say to you, our dear Children ; That at all times, we never looked for trouble in The future!! We always took the bright side , of happennings, as they came to us ; and were always trying to face The Sun: So That we couldnt see any shadow! -- -- And to you each and every one we would say :
Always try and face The Sun!!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

August Sasse excerpt #1

From the handwritten biography of my great great grandfather:

July 25th 1873. ---- Now we went to work with a good free will; digging a well, putting up a shed for the teams, breaking a little of the prairie sod, and put in a few acre of Corn, and the rest of the Time, I used the Armstrong machine; and put up as much prairie hay as possible. -- Of course our harvest didn't amount to much; for we planted so little -- but the pesky Grasshoppers came along, anyhow: -- and looked over the location; so as to be able to find it The following year:" -- -- --The next year, we broke out about 15 acres aond would have had a nice bit of Corn; but The hoppers Came and saved me The trouble of husking it: --- --- --- --- Then came the Year 1875, and with it our Son Adolph, on April 21st. -- -- -- Now we had on hand five hungry little ones -- a part of our happy lives!! --- --- --- --- but they had to be fed, and Clothed; and The measly hoppers Took every Thing, That we Expected to harvest:!! So There were many heartaches, of what to do in The future!!!" We kept on a planting and sowing; but even The Year 1876; our entire Crops were destroyed, when we almost had a big Corn Crop in our reach ---- at times we were much discouraged; but yet we held on and struggled for our little Band:" -- -- -- -- The Year 1877. was a blessed one for all of us, besides an abundant Corn and Wheat Crop;; we harvested a bouncing Baby girl, for on May 2nd our Cathariene was born; -- to help us, to chase the hoppers -- -- but she came too late; for The Bugs must have got scared, and They never bothered us afterwards! --- --- ---From now on, Time passed somewhat easier for The Children grew up like Sunflowers, and were soon able to help a little here and There:

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition to be so boring

Milos Forman's film, "Goya's Ghosts," has believable costumes by Yvonne Blake. I was raised on, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything." Yvonne Blake designed the costumes for "Three Musketeers" and "Four Musketeers" in the Seventies, and for many other movies since.

"Goya's Ghosts" makes less sense than those flicks with none of the fun. Someone thought he was making an Important Statement. The movie is melodramatic, but we don't get to throw popcorn at the villain.

Stellan Skarsgard in completely unconvincing as the artist Francisco de Goya. He was completely unconvincing as Bootstrap Bill in the second "Pirates of the Caribbean", but at least then he could blame it on the barnacles encrusted all over his face.

The main character of the film is Lorenzo, a monk of the Spanish Inquisition, and later an obnoxious Napoleonic prosecutor with good hair. Lorenzo is played by Javier Bardem, who looks to be the psychopathic brother of Tom Jones. I expected him to burst into song in the dungeon with, "It's not unusual to be raped by creepy monks..."

Lorenzo's speech is slower than that of Andre the Giant playing Fezzik in "The Princess Bride." I very much wanted Mandy Patinkin to pop onto the scene to start repeating, "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father prepare to die. "

You will leave the movie with less understanding of the Inquisition and the Napoleonic Era than when you entered, and no insights into the art of Goya. You will not be transported by cinematic beauty as you were in "Girl With Pearl Earring." You won't have a sense of Spain as you would listening to "Carmen". You won't ponder genius or evil as you do every time you watch "Amadeus." It's possible you might remember times when you wanted to hang a dinner guest from the chandelier. You might imagine the worst that could happen when Darth Cheney takes over during Dubya's colonoscopy. You may be reminded to make an appointment for a dental check-up.

My plan for the rest of the afternoon is a better understanding of the French Revolution through Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmélites."

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Lois Lenski Rescue Me

The Little Fire Engine is a classic picture book that should NOT be shared with children. I love Lois Lenski's books about Mr. Small and his little dog Tinker. My kids loved Cowboy Small, Policeman Small, Farmer Small, The Little Train, and The Little Sailboat. The powerful, simple images, and day-in-the-life stories are implanted forever in our memories.

Unfortunately, the book about Fireman Small is outdated in a way that is dangerous. Firefighters and teachers emphasize to children that they must get out of a burning building, and meet their family members at an agreed upon place to make sure everyone is out. Under no circumstances should children take time to gather belongings or go back into the house to get something.

In The Little Fire Engine, the family carries the sofa, lamps, tables, chairs, a doll buggy, a bucket, and a frying pan out of the house. The family doesn't even notice that a daughter has not come out of the house for several more pages.

Because this book was part of the fire safety education when I was an elementary student in the Sixties, I know the effect of Lenski's images. Kids chatted on the playground about which of their toys they would rescue from a fire. I dwelled on this question in my insomnia for years. What would I save? Sometimes I favored my Barbie Doll cases, other times my graph paper drawings of Perfect House floorplans. I still hear women my age talk about how they would have to get all their photo albums out of the house.

The message we all need to have implanted in our memory in case of fire is rescue me, not stuff. The City of Plano's Parks and Recreation Department offers fire station tours for children age 3-5. Your city probably does, too. That's a great way for children to be introduced to fire safety by friendly firefighters, and to see the fire trucks up close. There's information for kids at the U.S. Fire Administration site, too.

Like Robert McCloskey, Lois Lenski was an Ohio author. The Ohioana Authors site has useful information on authors' lives and books. Lenski died in 1974.

If you were hoping to find something here about Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin, please try Rescue Me instead.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Grasshoppers, locusts, and cicadas

It's been a blast talking with the students about grasshoppers this week, in part because I remember so clearly my feelings about grasshoppers when I was their age.

In my yellow-tinged black and white snapshot memory of childhood, I'm standing in our parched backyard with grasshoppers the size of cigars jumping up against my bare legs and "spitting tobacco". I'm wearing a pleated scooter skirt with gray, yellow, and orange weiner dogs on the fabric. The grasshopper irrational childhood terror threat level was orange, just one step below the red level for moths.

A grasshopper can jump twenty times the length of its body. For a human, that's the equivalent of running the kickoff out past the forty yard line. Spitting tobacco suggests more of a pro baseball bent.

In '98 or '99 I made a giant grasshopper combining papier mache, wire sculpture, and weaving of dyed fabrics. The finished product has hung over my mantlepiece since 2000. It was good to take the grasshopper down off the hook to be a visual aid at school, because it sure needed a good dusting!

Last week we studied honeybees, dragonflies, and mosquitos. We learned that the legs and wings are attached to the thorax, and that the part we think of as a tail is actually the abdomen of an insect. Earlier this summer we studied the life cycle of the butterfly.

I admitted to the elementary students that I didn't know about cicadas as a kid. We called the droning background sound of summer, "locusts buzzing." Locusts are actually short-horned swarming grasshoppers that devour entire crops causing millions of dollars of damage every year. Cicadas are related to aphids, not to grasshoppers:

Are cicadas "locusts"? Periodical cicadas are often incorrectly called locusts. Locusts are grasshoppers, while cicadas are most closely related to aphids. The term "locust" began to be used to describe cicadas around 1715 in the English colonies, when settlers tried to make sense of the cicada emergences by equating them with the biblical plagues. Because the cicadas appeared in great numbers and were eaten by the Native Americans, just as biblical locusts appeared in great numbers and were eaten by John the Baptist, "locust" seemed a logical name for them.

The biggest mass of insects ever recorded was the 1870 swarm of locusts in Nebraska estimated to be over 10 trillion strong. I can't imagine the noise of all those grinding mandibles!

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about a grasshopper plague in one of my all-time favorite books, On the Banks of Plum Creek. My own great-great grandfather described other Nebraska infestations in a handwritten short biography. I'll try to transcribe some of it this weekend.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Swimming lessons for life

"I know I can do this because I swam a mile."

Each summer in the Sixties brought group swim lessons at Eastridge Pool. The last Friday of a session we took a skills test to pass that Red Cross swimming level. The lifeguard instructors didn't cut us any slack. They weren't afraid to say we didn't pass. I didn't pass Beginners two or three times, being unable to blow bubbles or back float. The girl next door was happy for the teasing ammunition.

Then one summer I passed Advanced Beginners on the very first try. My parents were so pleased that we went to Lee's Restaurant to celebrate. My parents were not nearly as impressed with my accomplishment as I was. For a skinny, wimpy kid who was always called to run over during Red Rover, this was a major triumph. I was motivated to work hard to pass Intermediate class on the first try the next summer. I knew that I could swim. Unfortunately, my thoughts were, "I'll NEVER be any good at recess, but I can swim. The kids will ALWAYS tease me at recess, but they won't tease me at the pool."

Each June we added strokes, built endurance, and perfected the skills from the previous level. There was a golden moment the year I managed 100 yards each of crawl, backstroke, sidestroke, and breaststroke, and finally mastered a basic dive. I found myself swimming and diving for FUN, and being invited to play Marco Polo by the same kids who shunned me at recess on the playground or picked me last for the kick soccer team.

Then one summer the ranks of swimming lesson students was culled to the serious. It was time to swim a mile, and to also swim 25 yards under water. Mastering the mile swim forced me to pull all my gumption up from my toenails and focus on a goal. Strangely, I remember thinking that if I could just survive the mile, I could take a hot shower then bike home for a lunch of hot dogs in Spaghetti-Os, followed by sitting on the carport fence eating bing cherries and reading about Minoan archaeology.

I was old enough to ride my bike to the pool by myself wearing goofy cover-ups I sewed myself out of faded and frayed pink bath towels. I could ride to the pool in the morning when it wasn't crowded to practice my dives and swimming underwater. It was wonderful to take turns diving or making the biggest cannonball splash with the other kids.

I could even stay after five when most families went home to supper. That was the best time to try back dives and flips off the board, or to just enjoy the great feeling of propelling myself through the water for lap after lap.

The summer after the mile, everything changed. The pool was a place for wearing a two-piece, rubbing on CopperTone or Sea&Ski for tanning, and talking to boys. Girls only went into the water to cool off, but the guys in their Speedos showed off their dives. Somebody brought a paperback of The Godfather to pass around with the page dog-eared for the horse head in bed. Guys told jokes about sea men. The kids who swam fast or dived well joined competitive swim clubs.

The group of guys focused their efforts toward luring the least parentally-supervised girls "down to the creek" behind the pool. Rumors flew from beach towel to beach towel about what happened there, and what was done to whom by whom with a hairbrush. It was good to still be skinny, wimpy, uninteresting and clueless, but also sad. It was better to get into the water and just swim alone with my perfected strokes and endurance and the silver turquoise water under the golden sun.

When I've been afraid about hurdles in life, I've told myself, "I know I can do this because I swam a mile." Since I knew I could swim a mile, I believed I could do natural Lamaze childbirth. Since I survived natural childbirth, I knew I could run a 10-K. Since I ran a 10-K, I knew I could survive divorce. When I survived divorce I knew I could pull all my gumption from deep down in my toenails to be a single mom and launch my sons off the cosmic diving board to their own self-sufficiency, endurance, and stroke perfection.


Slivered almonds

Please comment and tell me I am not the only person who has zoned out in the salty snack food aisle of the grocery store in search of a small package of slivered almonds for the healthy fresh green beans. I know those almonds are somewhere in that store. I've seen them there before. The packages hang from a hook, and have dark green on the label. I've wandered the baking aisle, the health food aisle, the produce department, the dried fruit section, and the nut department over by the magazines and candy. My brain just can't make the right association for the search keywords. I have Googlefreeze Grocerymeltdown.

And worse, when I give up, go home, and cook the green beans, and cook them, and cook them still more, they continue to have the texture of garden hose and the flavor of pencil erasers. Sometimes I just can't find my groove.

Tonight I've wasted nearly a half hour Googling in search of an entertaining vine weed we used to call "Chinese lantern" or "Popberry" when I was a sprout back in the Cornhusker State. My students are building fairy houses, hence the need for nature lanterns. The weed was less annoying than dandelions or spurge, so my parents didn't fret much about it. You couldn't braid the vine into a chain the way you could clover, though, so you would never be discovered looking photogenic by a movie producer in a big convertible when you were sitting out in the front yard in the evening.

We spent a lot of summer evenings sitting down at the end of the driveway betting which color car would drive by next. When that got too slow, we played Kick the Can until the fireflies came out. Heat lightning and humming cicadas. Sphinx moths zipping around the honeysuckle bush. Calamine lotion. Maybe almonds some other day, or else running through the sprinkler.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Everyday Doings At Home

Dad's squirrels don't behave. They act like they own the joint. They let their pants hang low showing their boxers. Backward caps, tattoos, iPods, skateboards--you've heard it all before. Socrates complained about "today's youth". Everybody before and since had the same complaints. That's why we read "Zits" in the comics, and watch the squirrels rob our birdfeeders with a mix of admiration and aggravation. Otherwise, we'd all be swearing and suffering high blood pressure.

One educator recognized the similarity between children and squirrels and used it to create a courtesy textbook. Emma Serl got Bobbie Squirrel and Bettie Squirrel shaped up so that you could dress them up AND take them out. Silver Burdett published her reader in 1926 with classic illustrations by Harry E. Wood.

I've always known my own spinster school teacher Great Aunt Em gave me a copy of Everyday Doings At Home on a day when she found my manners seriously lagging behind my reading ability. The book was over forty years old then, and already decaying. The onus was clearly on me to practice manners that enhanced gatherings with adults. Keeping her copy of the book was a reminder of my childhood responsibility to strive toward becoming ever more acceptable and mindful in adult situations.

Mother Squirrel and Father Squirrel put concerted effort into teaching manners to their offspring so that they could enjoy them and be proud of them even in the company of Mrs. Bushy Tail and Mrs. Frisky. Those ladies knew which end of the hat pin was sharp! As a parent I was less strict with my own little squirrels, but I always knew Mrs. Bushy Tail and Mrs. Frisky were keeping tabs on my efforts. I still believe it is the most efficient and satisfactory duty of parents to train their children to behave in society rather than to train society to ignore the ugly behavior of their children.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Left Behind at Albertsons

Apocalypse on Aisle Three. Something strange is going on, and I didn't get the message.

Last time I shopped at my Albertsons the woman in the check-out line ahead of me had her entire cart filled with giant economy size purple boxes of Raisin Bran. This evening I was between a woman with three huge buckets of vanilla ice cream (the kind with the red handles), and a woman pushing a cart full of store brand toilet paper. The end must be nigh, and it's going to chafe.

c.1384, "revelation, disclosure," from Church L. apocalypsis "revelation," from Gk. apokalyptein "uncover," from apo- "from" (see apo-) + kalyptein "to cover, conceal" (see Calypso). The Christian end-of-the-world story is part of the revelation in John of Patmos' book "Apokalypsis" (a title rendered into Eng. as "Apocalypse" c.1230 and "Revelations" by Wyclif c.1380).

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Wine, dine, and fine lines

This is a favorite story of mine, but sometimes I need to cite my source, Ohioana Authors, for the unbelievers.

Robert McCloskey

His second and perhaps best-known book, Make Way for Ducklings, won the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1942. In the story, a mother duck searches the streets of Boston for a safe place to raise her young. McCloskey began the book by recalling the hilarious scenes of ducks crossing grid-locked Boston streets. To illustrate the detailed movements of his characters with authenticity, McCloskey bought a half dozen southern mallards at a city market from a poultry dealer. He spent the next few weeks crawling around his studio, sketching the ducks and cleaning up their droppings. McCloskey put them in a bathtub to sketch their swimming movements. And when they waddled too fast for him to draw, McCloskey fed the ducks red wine to slow them down. Evident from the richly detailed charcoal illustrations, McCloskey returned to Boston to sketch the book’s background alive with parks, bridges, fences, streets, people and cars.


Don't let the class rabbit get any ideas!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

International Quilt Study Center

The new facility for the International Quilt Study Center at the University of Nebraska is going to be a traffic stopper. Now under construction at 33rd and Holdrege in Lincoln, Nebraska, the building was so exciting to the eye that I drove around it several times. Yes, I took the photo through the car windshield, but there wasn't any traffic at that moment!

I had seen the architect's model in the UN-L Home Economics building, but still wasn't prepared for the visual impact of the glass reception hall. Robert A. M Stern Architects have certainly connected the aesthetics of the structure to the function. The form triggered memories of a quilt made by my great-grandmother. These are two left-over pieces of that quilt pattern.

The quilt pieces remind me of a peeled and opened orange. Today they also remind me of the Dulcinea cantaloupe I tried last night. It was much sweeter than a normal cantaloupe, but made me sneeze just the same.

I look forward to visiting the new IQSC facility next year. It is expected to open in March of 2008. By summer the landscaping should be lovely.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Thinking, but brain dead

While on my trip to Nebraska to help my dad I learned Collagemama had been tagged by Genevieve Netz of Prairie Bluestem and Tree Notes for a Thinking Blogger Award. It was a boost on a day when life seemed over a quart low on encouragement.

I don't know a meme from a screaming mimi, but I'd like to thank all the little people who made it possible while wearing a splendid Barbie satin evening gown and full-length gloves.

I'd also like anyone who reads this blog to check in at these blogs and websites:

1. Randal Plowman's A Collage A Day blog--http://acollageaday.blogspot.com/
2. Lincoln social and political commentator Leon Satterfield who should be world famous but it would just go to his head--http://thetruthmainly.com/index.html
3. The 2007 Texas Book Festival--https://www.texasbookfestival.org/
4. Online Entomology Dictionary where you can sponsor a word--http://www.etymonline.com/
5. The Fairy House Series--http://www.fairyhouses.com/home.html

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

The Little Marmots

My tiny student demands to look at the "Marmot" book before her nap. I'm surprised that she knows about these North American mammals. Of course I was equally surprised when she counted all the glittery spots on her princess t-shirt in clear non-native English, and when she was able to name all the colors in English.

I'd never heard of marmots until I encountered a colony of the fat, chirping mammals at an abandoned mine in the San Juan National Forest above Durango, Colorado on a newlywed backpacking trip. Their sound was eerie, and they were clustered around every rock and inside every decaying outhouse on the Kennebec Pass trail.

According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, marmots are fat, grizzled, waddling relatives of ground squirrels and woodchucks. They are social animals of the alpine meadows employing a system of alarm calls against predators. It is easy to see how they might be mistaken for mermaids!

My student actually wants the book about Disney's mermaid Ariel. She isn't interested in driving up the rutted Forest Service road to the trailhead, and probably won't knock the oil pan off the underside of her puke yellow Chevy Nova driving back down to civilization after her hike.

In an equally confusing moment, two year-old Danger Baby demanded "the 'care book" before naptime from his grandmother while I was in the hospital with his new baby brother. Mom looked everywhere for a Care Bears book, but Danger Baby really wanted Dr. Seuss's story about the pale green pants, "What Was I Scared Of?," in The Sneetches and Other Stories. I bet pudgy, chirping, little marmots in pale green pants would make a heckuva children's video!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Happening by a fortunate accident or chance

That is the definition of fortuitous. It was hard locating a visitor parking space on the UN-L East Campus when I went to the quilt show in the Home Ec building. I parked Dad's car in front of the Plant Sciences building, and went inside to obtain a visitor parking permit from the first office I encountered. The guys lounging in the Forestry office didn't have any permits, so they sent me across the hall. The woman in that office didn't have the key to the file cabinet where the permits were kept. She sent me up the stairs to Entomology. I'm so glad she did.

Hanging on the wall behind the desk in the Entomology department office was a gorgeous poster of bees and cherry blossoms and postage stamps. It had a website, http://www.pollinator.org/, that I managed to remember until I got back home to Texas. Got my permit, and went on to the show of quilts of the 1930's entitled, "Recycling and Resourcefulness".

Back at Dad's house, I chatted with him and with his housekeeper about the quilt show. We dug out the quilt I remember so well from childhood, "Grandmother's Flower Garden". From my earliest years its hexagons inspired our play. Sometimes the hexagons represented blooms. Other times we pretended the contiguous green pieces were the sidewalk around the flower beds at Lincoln's Sunken Garden. Our paper dolls dressed in original crayola fashions walked these sidewalks on lazy afternoons. We spent hours avoiding sleep at naptime by discussing favorite colors, patterns, and combinations of fabrics. I loved the perfect fit of the geometry.

My parents were both engineers, and I was aware of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes nearly as soon as my dad built my Tiny Tears doll a Tinker Toy swingset. I wanted the colorful quilt to balloon up into floral domes, perfect homes for our troll dolls and Liddle Kiddles!

Dad told stories of how quilts were made by his aunts and grandmother, and other women of Pierce, Nebraska during the Depression years. Some of those ladies became my first pen pals. Our mail exchanges gave me a new fascination--postage stamps. I'm sure Aunt Em would like the new pollination postage stamps!

© 2007 USPS. All Rights Reserved.

I love the interlocking blocks of the beautiful postage stamps, just as I love the interlocking hexagons, and the cycle of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle illustrated by the quilts of the 1930s:

Come summer, Post Offices will be abuzz with the release of the Pollination stamps. The 20-stamp booklet consists of four stamps arranged in two alternate and interlocking blocks-of-four. The intricate design of these four beautiful stamps emphasizes the ecological relationship between pollinators and plants and suggests the biodiversity necessary to ensure the viability of that relationship.

Artist Steve Buchanan created an intricate graphic scheme for the stamps that emphasizes the ecological relationship between pollinators and plants and also hints at the biodiversity necessary to ensure the future viability of that relationship. To that end, the four different stamps are arranged in two alternate blocks that fit together like interlocking puzzles. In one block the pollinators form a central starburst. In the other block, the flowers are arranged in the center.

Returning to Texas I learned that the preschoolers would study honeybees and hexagons this week. The classroom teacher ordered the free poster from the Pollinator website, and the free garden wheel. They arrived almost immediately. The poster would be a beautiful addition to any classroom. How fun that I could show the students photos of Dad's "Grandmother's Flower Garden" quilt during our hexagon week, and talk to them about the generations working together to make a quilt. I read them Lesa Cline-Ransome's Quilt Counting. The words do not flow trippingly off the tongue, but the illustrations by James Ransome are glorious paintings.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder



Two three year-old boys were chatting after naptime:

"What's your dad's name?"

"I don't really know because he's married."

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Docent So Close To Me

Docent so close to me, don't stand so close to me! I want to have the mental and physical space to form my own reactions to the art in your small gallery. I'm quite harmless. No intent to stick my chewed Doublemint gum on a work of art.

Immediately upon arrival at the Hillestad Textiles Gallery at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to view the "Recycling & Resourcefulness: Quilts of the 1930s" exhibit a volunteer docent-in-training attached herself to me like one of those non-skid bathtub daisies on an early 1970s bathtub. Ecstatic that the gallery had a live visitor, she made me her bosom buddy to practice her spiel and stayed within hug-ability range. I've had a marriage with greater adhesion, and certainly less conversation.

This was not the most aggravating experience of suction docent syndrome, but very annoying anyway. I've been involuntarily conjoined to docents at the MADI and the MAC in Dallas, thePhilbrook in Tulsa, and the Wheelwright in Santa Fe. Thanks to the Valley House Gallery for being less velcro!

Don't stand, don't stand so
Don't stand so close to me
Don't stand, don't stand so
Don't stand so close to me
Don't stand, don't stand so
Don't stand so close to me

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

My bologna has a lunchpail

The new preschooler brings a "b'lonely sandwich" in his lunchpail most days. He's a happy little eater, but it still brings a tear to my eye. Each time he says, "b'lonely," I remember watching the little petunia on Captain Kangaroo 's version of I'm a Lonely Little Petunia In an Onion Patch wiping her eyes with her leaf arms:

Of all the saddest words
That I have ever heard
The saddest is the story
Told me by a bird
He had spent about an hour
Chatting with a flower
and here ís the tale the flower told --

I'm a lonely little petunia in an onion patch, an onion patch, an onion patch
I'm a lonely little petunia in an onion patch and all I do is cry all day
Boo hoo, boo hoo
The air ís so strong it takes my breath away
I'm a lonely little petunia in an onion patch, oh won't you come and play with me

Strolling through Whole Foods last weekend I chanced upon a display of Onion Goggles for sale. Already having a set of swim goggles and being allergic to onions, I didn't check the price tag. I can't really visualize Julia Child wearing Onion Goggles. She would look like the French Fearless Fly Chef.

Only B' lonely springs next to my memory blanks' hit parade:

Only the lonely
Only the lonely (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)
Know the way I feel tonight (ooh-yay-yay-yay-yeah)
Only the lonely (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)
Know this feelin ain't right (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)
There goes my baby
There goes my heart
They're gone forever
So far apart
But only the lonely
Know whyI cry
Only the lonely
Only the lonely
Only the lonely
Know the heartaches I've been through
Only the lonely
Know I cried and cried for you
Maybe tomorrow
A new romance
No more sorrow
But thats the chance - you gotta take
If your lonely heart breaks
Only the lonely

slang for "nonsense," 1922, Amer.Eng. (popularized 1930s by N.Y. Gov. Alfred E. Smith), from earlier sense of "idiot" (probably influenced by blarney), usually regarded as being from bologna sausage, a type traditionally made from odds and ends, named for the city in Italy.
1850, variant of bologna sausage (1596), named for the city in Italy, formerly Bononia. See baloney.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Neapolitan Sky

This evening's storm was short, but a doozy. The electricity went off twice, so the LEDs are blinking their irritation. Walked outside afterward. The sky to the north above the Walgreens store's red neon glowed as a dessert delight. A little bit neapolitan ice cream, a big blast of patriotic bomb pop, and a just-washed fresh fruit parfait, completely harmonious, but each competing for the spotlight. If I were the slightest bit meteorological, I'd say that the ions were tingling.

Just above the Walgreen's the sky was a cut glass trifle bowl of homestyle vanilla ice cream scoops just the teensiest bit melty. The next layer was a thin band sometimes watermelon pink, but changing to raspberry sorbet the next glance in my rearview mirror. On top was the widest band of tingling velvet blue frosted with lavendar like a close-up photo of a blueberry, or a lush, gorgeous, itchy mohair sweater designed by Mark Rothko.

Here in Dallas, we are really tired of television weather personalities talking about "upper level lows". To separate the problems, I'm tired of the weather allegedly produced by "upper level lows", and I'm sick of weather personalities on television news programs. The weather segment of the news keeps expanding to fill in for the absence of actual news reporting. Now we have to hear about "dry lines" and be broadcast live from somebody's backyard picnic.

Top Ten List of what I want from my local weather report:

10. An honest family guy writing with chalk on a blackboard map who can pronounce city and county names correctly. Bowtie optional
9. One brief report of somewhere in the world having a hideous weather calamity so I can say, "Thank heavens I don't live in _________."
8. That the phrase, "ask your doctor if _______ is right for you," doesn't arrive in any of the sponsoring commercials.
7. A Doppler radar map in purdy colors.
6. An air quality/allergy/ozone report summarized as "Don't inhale."
5. Rainfall total for the month
4. Expected overnight low temp
3. The current temperature
2. Do I need to take cover for the approaching tornado right now?
1. Will it be a school snow day in the morning?

I became a cloud watcher in the summer of 1973 at Ten Mile Lake near Hackensack, Minnesota. After my first airplane flight I spent a couple extremely rainy weeks at a friend's cabin on the lake. The days of rains chained together, braided with the Senate Watergate hearings and Johnny Miller's win at the U.S. Open on the black and white tv screen.

Never mastered the names for the clouds, or any of the science. It's only as a painter that I'm interested. The painter, and the kid sitting in the grass eating a ten cent bomb pop.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Slow Travel: Episode One

It is 5:10 a.m. at Dallas Love Field. Those passengers who have forgotten to check in on-line, like me, are lining up at the Southwest Airline counter. Passengers who are unable or ineligible to do on-line check-in are with us, including minor children who will fly unaccompanied, persons in wheelchairs, kids on crutches, persons without computers (gasp!)... We make a nice orderly line of yawners skootching baggage across the grimy tile floor, but there's no one working at the counter. There's a low vibration of anxiety flowing in the line. We have arrived the required hour-plus before our flight for security measures and baggage-handling, but the airline seems not to have taken the same approach.

It is 5:15 a.m. An employee begins barking at us to divide into two lines. One line is for persons deemed able to use a touch screen computer self check-in. The other is for those poor unfortunates considered by the airline to be outrageously demanding individuals who actually need to deal with a human to check-in. It's a wonder Southwest allows them to fly at all!! We split into two orderly lines with nervous yawns.

It is 5:20. A few employees straggle to the counter rolling their eyes at us. The barker looks at the white-haired blind man with his white cane and his hand placed on the shoulder of his daughter in front of him for guidance. The barker chooses this moment to divert our line into the corded maze known as the "queue corral". Instead of walking twenty feet to the counter, the blind man and his daughter must thread the maze down and back, down and back, down and back, down and back. They do so without a word of protest. I am embarrassed to admit I did not protest, even though I would have argued if the blind man were exchanged with my walker-using father.

The barking woman orders us to the touch screens. Then employees behind the counter snarl at us for needing the tag on our baggage that only they can provide.

Just as males became confused about whether holding the door for a female was an insult to her abilities and equality a generation ago, we are now confused about our impulses to assist the disabled. Common sense and common courtesy have been lost to equal access curb-cuts and anxiety about political correctness and disability-based discrimination. I don't know if the barking woman employee was insensitive, unobservant, advised by an attorney, or just plain mean. One would hope that airline employees and security workers who are supposed to be on heightened alert for suspicious terrorists could also be sufficiently alert to spot a blind man with a white cane.

If I were standing in line I'd have time to read the National Council on Disability's POSITION PAPER ON ACCESS TO AIRLINE SELF-SERVICE KIOSK SYSTEMS. Also useful is the U.K.'s Tiresias Organization, an information resource for people working in the field of visual disabilities, and its guidelines on accessible tourism queue management. Should you want to continue the fun by playing airport at home, here's where you can order your own Tensabarrier retractable queue control system.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Slow Travel: Episode Two

When I am in charge of the world, I will send the hosts and hostesses of our nation's sit-down mid-price restaurants to my special training facility. At the facility they will each be equipped with a walker, and sent though mazes filled with bar stools and chair legs to the ramp at the farthest corner of the simulation restaurant, then to the most distant booth or table around the obstacle course of highchairs and waitstaff singing "Happy Birthday".

Just before lunch all the major television stations began broadcasting live, continuous coverage of a low-speed car chase on a California highway, shades of O.J. Police and highway patrol were able to redirect all traffic to clear the road for some driver who refused to pull over at heaven knows what cost to taxpayers. Oh that the restaurant staff could push the occasional stray chair legs out of the aisle as they so impatiently lead those patrons who must travel slowly to a table! Maybe if we interrupted our regularly scheduled programming we could get a little service.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Slow Travel: Episode Three

As my flight from Omaha to Dallas was making its scheduled brief stop in St. Louis, the pilot informed us that we would be picking up some stranded travelers in Tulsa. What? Just a little hop from St. Louis to Tulsa, so we might be delayed arriving in Dallas by an hour. Southwest had run out of planes due to mechanical problems somewhere along the line earlier in the day. So we were the rescue flight. Not really convenient, but more time to read my book, All Quiet On the Western Front. The classic war novel is a selection of the Dallas Morning News Points Summer Book Club.

The St. Louis passengers were informed as they boarded, and told to rearrange their ground travel plans for the delayed arrival in Dallas. They walked down the aisle grousing loudly into their cellphones. Many of the passengers acted darn ugly to the flight attendants, assuming that the extra flight crew that had boarded "just needed a ride home."

When we landed in Tulsa the pilot announced that we should remain seated so passengers could deplane, and others could quickly board. As the dozen people stood up to get off, after what had probably been a rotten day sitting in the St. Louis terminal unable to get home to Tulsa, some of the Dallas-bound passengers started shouting things like, "So you're the ones who caused this mess!" One young mother looked like she had been slapped in the face. She quickly took her daughter up the aisle and out of the hostile environment. Other passengers made loud, obnoxious comments to the stranded passengers who boarded in Tulsa like it was their choice and their fault.

Airlines treat passengers poorly. No question there. Passengers needn't treat each other or the flight crew with such mean venum. What is this? Lord of the Flies??

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


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