Little Miss Muffet Went to the Dumpster

With my camera in my back pocket, I took the trash to the dumpster Wednesday night. A large yellow-orange spider had made a splendid web under the carport light. The strands of the web glowed, and my camera flash added the rainbow hues.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Grandpa's lunchbox

Went to the library to pick up the books I reserved about lunch and lunchboxes. Fifteen books, and half of them are about bad manners, and far worse nutrition. I ended up with six that I will share with students. Three of the books are about grandparents. Maybe there is a way to connect our nutrition unit with our grandparent project:

Oliver's Fruit Salad, by Vivian French, is about a boy who has been helping his grandfather in an orchard. He likes to help, but he doesn't like to eat fruit. It involves going to the grocery store with his mom to buy fresh fruit instead of processed. Then the grandparents arrive, and they prepare a grand fruit salad, and the boy eats three helpings.

Grandpa's Garden Lunch, by Judith Caseley, goes through the process of planting and tending a garden (vegetables, flowers, and herbs) shared by a little girl and her grandparents. Then one day they "have the garden for lunch", salad, spaghetti sauce, mint iced tea, zucchini cake, and flowers on the table.

Lunchtime for a Purple Snake, by Harriet Ziefert, is about a girl and her artist grandfather. They take turns painting parts of a picture, and talk about color-mixing. Their collaboration is about a snake's lunch.

It will be fun to use our current supply of ugly neckties to make "purple lunchtime snakes"... I'm getting excited about the oral history dictation:

At Grandma's house I don't kick my brother under the table.

When Granddad takes us out to dinner we "have reservations". We order from the menu, but he says our eyes shouldn't be "bigger than our stomachs". Granddad also says the pelican's beak holds more than its belly can.

My grandma says it's bad manners to burp. Mom says that "under no uncertain circumstances" are we to burp at Grandma's house. She said that at Grandma's house it is "better to squelch a belch and bear the pain than to belch a belch and bear the shame."

My grandpa eats pickled herring and teeny tiny ears of corn from a jar for lunch. It's very scary.

Grandmother pours my breakfast cereal in the special chickie bowl that my dad used when he was just my age. If I eat it all, I can see the chickie. She pours my orange juice in the bluebird glass. After breakfast I use the red watering can to water her African violets. Grandmother's kitchen floor squeaks.

When Grandma and I go to the zoo, we take a picnic lunch to eat at the sea lion pool. We have iced tea with our sandwiches and carrots so yellowjackets don't bother us. I got a bee sting when we had ice cream cones... Grandma and I talk about the elephants when my brother has a bad diaper, then we ride the train.

Gramps says "take all you want, but eat all you take."

When we drive away from Grandma's house, Dad says, "throw momma from the train a kiss goodbye."

My grandma is the best cook in the whole wide world.

If my grandparents came to my school for lunch, I would show them _______________________ and ____________________________.

My grandpa likes to take a nap after lunch. So do I!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Who Do You Mute, Arlene?

I walk 47 miles of barbed wire,
I use a cobra-snake for a necktie,
I got a brand new house on the roadside,
Made from rattlesnake hide,
I got a brand new chimney made on top,
Made out of a human skull,
Now come on take a walk with me, Arlene,
And tell me, who do you love?

Don't diddley around in the recliner with your remote control, Dad! Be decisive. Mute the damn fools! Take the wind out of their annoying full-of-hot-air sails. "Ask your doctor if..." hitting the mute button on your remote control might relieve symptoms caused by overexposure to Sally Field with her once-a-month Boniva; to the Geico caveman with his nervous breakdown; to all those actors shrinking their prostates, erecting their dysfunctions, or being so superficial as to imagine gray hair ruined their relationship and forced them back "into the game".

Who do you mute?

I had the great good fortune to hear Bo Diddley perform in a small Oklahoma City club many years ago. I hope Bo's remote control is made of rattlesnake hide, and that he hits that mute button whenever Brian Williams of NBC's Nightly News narrates those near tragic/perky rescue pet stories for the blue-haired condo/dachsund-owners demographic.

Ask your doctor if using the television remote mute button is covered by Medicare and your supplemental Medi-gap insurance.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Ramble on, hornworms

On the phone with Dad, discussing Hy-Vee chef salads, Swanson pot pies, humidity, and no-name golf, when I spy the tomato hornworm hiking across my concrete patio. It's lost, but making very good time. No tomato plants here! Hornworm movements are hiking in anti-gravity boots on a Seventies' waterbed. A rambling hornworm should be accompanied by a merry-go-round calliope version of Led Zep's "Ramble On":

Ramble On,
And now's the time, the time is now,
to sing my song.
I'm goin' 'round the world,
I got to find my girl,
on my way.
I've been this way ten years to the day,
Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.

Before the phone call is over, a second hornworm traverses the patio, again left to right. True, it could be the earlier lost immigrant on a second circuit searching for Heffalumps. Maybe I'm in Wonderland without my pocket watch.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Easy lunch

+ +

Night before: Put a large handful of frozen shrimp in a bowl. Set it down in the refrigerator. In a 4-oz container place fresh fruit.

Warm one Mission brand Garden Spinach Herb Wrap for a few seconds in the microwave. This prevents cracking. Roll the spinach wrap into a cigar. Wrap the rolled wrap in Saran. Put shrimp in a colander and rinse thoroughly. In a 10-oz recycled deli container place shrimp, then a small handful of grated Mexican combo cheeses. Fill to brim with chopped bell pepper, mushrooms, cut tomatoes, 1/3 of a lemon or 1whole lime cut in wedges, and a goodly swirl of Maggli sauce (about the amount of ketchup you would put on a large hamburger).

At noon: Unroll spinach wrap on paper plate. Scoop out the 10 oz. of good stuff from the containter onto the spinach wrap. Squeeze the lemon or lime over the shrimp. Fold in the top & bottom of the sleeping bag. Roll the filled wrap. Use techniques from old Chuck Norris movies to fend off hungry, envious coworkers.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Hot on the trail of caterpillar frass

My cannas have rarely looked lovelier. The leafrollers never showed up to roll the leaves with their sticky white goo and eat holes through the "cigars" this summer.

Just as I was celebrating, my creeping myrtle aka periwinkle aka vinca minor leaves became folded, brown, and brittle. This never happened before. The leaves reminded me of the powdery mildew on flowering crape myrtles (completely unrelated to creeping myrtle). That put me off the trail briefly, though I really suspected an obnoxious, poopy insect.

My little students are fascinated with the tomato hornworms that hide in our school garden. Hornworms are frass champions, meaning they can outpoop any other insect and many small mammal pets on any given day. My patio pests aren't hornworms.

What kind of insect goes to the trouble of neatly folding and gluing itself inside a leaf just to suck out all the green food goodness and leave frass in the living room before vacating the premises for the next leaf on the vine? Okay, it does remind me of some rugby players I knew in college who would throw major parties to get evicted instead of paying their rent. This insect is not large enough to carry the beer kegs into the rental house, though.

Yesterday I attacked the ugly plants to work out unsuccessful water heater service frustrations. Hacked the vinca way back, and bagged it, along with other overgrown plants in a sweaty machete mama therapy. I left enough periwinkle for it to revive, but not much for pest food. I only spotted one likely villain. The little yellow and green caterpillar with black spots, an orange head, and a Groucho Marx leer disappeared too quickly.

Today I wanted to catch Groucho in the act. I followed a series of frass-filled brittle ruins of former leaf room-&-boards to a still-green and moist folded leaf flophouse. Yes! This dude has played his last rugby game! No more free rent. No more beer and Cheetos. He's spending the rest of his days in a periwinkle-filled Ragu jar with tiny holes in the lid. I may have to play good cop/bad cop to learn why Groucho went for the vinca this year, instead of the cannas.

What do you do about leaf-rollers on Cannas, Vinca Minor and Vinca Major? Parker County Master Gardener La Donna Stockstill

...Damaged canna blades become notched and ragged. When they mature and open, they look like someone has shot them with a B B gun. One finds robust caterpillars hidden inside leaf rolls. Canna leaf-roller caterpillars are clear white at first. They become semi-pale green with age. Lesser canna leaf-roller caterpillars are smaller and yellow. Large ornate butterflies lay eggs from which they hatch. The caterpillars spin silk thread used to pull leaf edges together. They hide inside the protective tube, presumably to avoid predators. Leaf rollers in late summer are devastating to foliage of vinca major and to some lesser degree to vinca minor and should be prevented with systemic insecticide before they begin... If the damage has been done, you will may want to cut the marred foliage back and allow new growth to cover the area ...

You may want to check references before renting to rugby players, too.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Perturbed? Oh, no.

Next week my youngest, the Woolly Mammoth, leaves for a semester or two studying art, art history, and Italian studies in Viterbo, Italy. Like his brother, Danger Baby, before him, he has arranged all the financing, scholarships, passport, visa, immunizations, transfer credits, and arrangements to meet his father in Europe all by himself. I'm enormously impressed and proud of this effort.

"All by myself " is an issue best addressed before kindergarten. It's a huge developmental step. When children feel unsure and want help, it's good to ask leading questions that allow them to work out their own solutions.

I keep reading about "helicopter parents" swooping in to micromanage problems for their college students, most recently in Mirage Magazine, volume 26, number 1, fall 2007 , the University of New Mexico alumni publication. Parents who are involved with their college kids on a daily basis resemble VTOL aircraft even more than helicopters. Vertical Takeoff/Landing aircraft are "transformers", shifting shapes to drop straight down into a problem, and occasionally lift back up out of it. Parents project the fx message that despite their own job responsibilities and personal activities, they are instantly available to morph into The Amazing Fixer and descend into any difficulty for their college student.

What does that tell the college-age child?

  • You can't make decisions.
  • You can't solve problems.
  • You can't communicate effectively with teachers, advisors, or dorm staff.
  • You can't find your own interests, talents, passions, or bliss.
  • You can't take care of yourself when you have a cold.
  • You don't have enough sense to know you should go to Student Health.
  • You can't learn from your mistakes.
  • You can't allow yourself to make mistakes.
  • You can't manage money.
  • You can't plan long-range.
  • You can't decide if a person is a true friend.
  • You can't remember to put a sheet of "Bounce" into each dryer load.
  • You can't trust your own gut.

On the cover of the alumni magazine there's a very handsome photo of dramatic clouds and the ladder down into a kiva. The poster will be available for sale soon, as part of the Lobo homecoming this fall. I love the idea that going to college is like climbing the ladder into the kiva. It is a developmental step, same as the preschooler demanding to do something "all by myself". The kiva signifies greater self-awareness and self-confidence. It acknowledges accepting guidance from elders and shaman, as well as parents. It symbolizes community, friendship, and responsibility. Most of all, it represents wholeness and health. Everything we wish for our children. We just have to let them descend the kiva ladder alone.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Skidamarink my vinca's sick

Wee Sing a sad patio song this evening. What is wrong with my vinca minor aka creeping myrtle on the hottest day of the summer? I sing a warped horticultural "Skidamarink-a-dink-a-dink". Wee Sing audio cassettes, songbooks, and children's video cassettes in early Betamax format burned that song forever on my memory when my sons were little.

Myrtle is sick! Nothing ever bothers creeping myrtle. It's always been the most dependable of ground covers. True, this has been an odd weather year in the Dallas area. We had lots of rain in early summer, and were slow to heat to our normal uninhabitable Easy Bake Oven daily temps.

I chopped back the creeping myrtle in late June when it threatened to take over the entire patio. I do that every summer, usually two or three times. It didn't show signs of blight in the cool, wet weather. Why are the leaves folded and brown now? The leaves look like they've been carefully folded over and sealed with a white substance to form a pouch. When I pull open the browning leaves, I find lots of tiny, dry, black particles that look like poppy seeds. They don't look like eggs, don't move, and aren't fuzzy or moldy in appearance.

Please comment if you know what is wrong. Myrtle'll love you!

Skidamarink a dink a dink
Skidamarink a dink a do, I love you
Skidamarink a dink a dink
Skidamarink a dink a do, I love you
I love you in the morning and in the afternoon,
I love you in the evening and underneath the moon.
Oh, Skidamarink a dink a dink
Skidamarink a dink a do, I love you!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Emits Showers of Cold Water

Part II of Light Fuse Get Away Fast.

Warning labels on fireworks always make me laugh. Emits Showers Of Sparks. Well, I sure hope so. That's why I bought it!

There should be a cautionary label on those black "snakes" that said Leaves Ugly Marks On Driveway. Makes Your Mom Crabby. That would be more useful.

Speaking of crabby moms, my Kenmore gas water heater's pilot light won't stay lit. Two mornings of cold showers make a mom irritable, especially with dirty dishes piling up, and waiting around for the gas company technician. Get to sit around again tomorrow waiting for the Kenmore serviceman. The darn water heater is only two and a half years old. It has a piezo push-button igniter, so I don't have to light matches or pray that my hair won't erupt in flames. Contortions are still required to watch for the "clean blue flame of quality" through the little window two inches off the ground while holding down the gas knob with one hand and pushing the igniter button quickly and repeatedly with the other while spiders dance on my head.

This would be a nice time for the hummingbirds to pay a visit to cheer me up.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Light Fuse Get Away Fast

"When you were a child, you always said the Fourth of July was your favorite holiday," Dad remembered. Those childhood Fourths were filled with family traditions, friendly gatherings, anticipation, and sensory delights.

First thing in the morning we marched our American flag out to the front yard to display it for the day, then we launched our parachutes before breakfast.

We would have purchased our firecrackers days before, each with a crisp five dollar bill. The best prices were usually found inside the Walgreens store at Gateway Mall. Buying our own fireworks was a big incentive for learning to do arithmetic in our heads so we could literally get the most bang for our bucks. We had to decide whether to buy the large economy package of bottle rockets, or just buy a dozen at a higher price each in order to have more money to spend on fountains, helicopters, and grasshoppers. We did math to determine how many packs of Black Cats we needed to get through the day with no leftovers, but not run short. Although our neighbors insisted that children must have the very long metal sparklers, we decided we prefered the little Chinese paper sparklers that changed colors better, and didn't spend our money based on peer pressure!

A trip to the swimming pool took up the middle part of the day, and in later years, sailing at Holmes Lake. Sometimes a relaxing nap was required, and other years just suggested. Then it was time for the three family get-together, with eight kids of stair-stepping ages, and six parents. A different family hosted the event each year, so we got practice being good hosts and polite guests. Big kids were expected to include the little ones in our activities so no one felt left out. We kids would make crayon drawings on red, white, and blue construction paper for placemats, and use our best handwriting on placecards. We had to budget our annual package of assorted colored paper to have enough red for Valentines, the Fourth, and Christmas!

After perfectly broiled Nebraska corn-fed T-bones there would be hide-and-seek until it got dark. Each family had a designated launching pad in the yard, and safety was the rule. While dads launched the more dangerous firecrackers, children were taught to light their five-dollars' worth carefully and one person at a time. The result was as much a proud moment celebrating our developing skill as it was a pyrotechnic display! By evening we would have carefully analyzed our purchases to choreograph how to build the excitement toward a grand finale, alternate sound and light impressions, gold and colored, ground and sky.

The smoke kept away the mosquitos. At the end of our family display we could climb a hill or get up on the roof to watch big displays out at the country clubs. Disappointment and let down that the Fourth was over for another year was balanced by personal satisfaction, and physical exhaustion after a day spent outside. We shared slices of chilled watermelon, spitting pits for distance and accuracy, while the moms collected their dishes and coolers.

The Fourth of July was more problematic when two of my sons had asthma, and fireworks became illegal except for large civic displays. Not all parents supervised children to ensure a safe, happy Fourth the way the three dads had in my childhood. An attitude that city regulations were intended to be broken as far as possible unless the police arrived ran counter to what I tried to teach my children the rest of the year.

This year I spent the Fourth of July with my dad. I watched rabbits playing chase and leapfrog amid the fireflies, and later in the evening being backlit by fireworks and hazy smoke. I wondered if Van Gogh's "Starry Night" might actually be a bunny silouette against firefly and firework light.

When I returned to class after the holiday, I told the older students about the bunnies and fireflies. We had studied "Starry Night" together, and offered our personal interpretations year before last. And so, I was very touched yesterday when a dear student gave me a thank you note written in her beautiful cursive and illustrated with the bunny rabbits' Fourth of July.

Since moving to Plano in 1990, I've looked forward to the first appearance of the ruby-throated hummingbirds in my yard. The date is always uncertain, but the sensory delight is guaranteed. So nice that it occurred on my oldest son's twenty-fifth birthday today!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Speed-dating with a troll under the bridge

According to AARP Magazine [Sept.-Oct. 2007], senior citizens have discovered speed-dating. Speed-dating is popular with young professionals like my eldest. Events are for meeting many people quickly, and discovering any sparks of interest in three or eight minutes of chatting.

True, I'm old enough to be an AARP member, but I prefer to imagine a seriously senior citizen speed-dating scenario. Some enchanted evening you may find that special someone across a crowded room of entangled walkers and wheelchairs .

The story suggests asking the person you just met to list their medications and to tell how many times they've been married. After team brain-storming, here are some other questions:

Do you mind if I tuck my napkin under my chin?

Which “big war” did you mean?

Are your pills in 7 or 30 day plastic containers?

Do your children cook Thanksgiving dinner for you, or do you still go to your mom's house?

Name your top five favorite Campbell's soups.

Does the phrase, "TED hose," remind you of Mary Jo Kopechne?

Who has your Power of Attorney?

Any grown kids living in your basement?

What flavor of Boost is your favorite?

How old is your poodle?

How many cats do you feed?

Care to join me for The Weather Channel local on the eights?

Wanna watch some Efferdent bubbles with me?

Earlier this summer the AARP Magazine featured a bizarre Kevin Costner photo on the cover. My immediate reaction was, "He must be starring in a Three Billy Goats Gruff movie!" Who's that trippy-tromping on my bridge?

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Sleeping with the windows open

The moth is just doing its job when it bumps and thumps against your window screen. A wonderful concept for a preschooler hearing Russell Hoban's delightful Bedtime for Frances picture book, and not a bad idea for anyone:

Her father soon grows increasingly frustrated with little Frances and sternly reassures her that these phenomena do not exist. Moreover, he explains that the wind, another cause of Frances' distress, is doing its job by shaking the windowpanes. He also teaches her that everyone and everything has a job: his job requires that he arrive at the office at nine every morning, Frances' job is to attend school, and the wind's job is to blow. Reassured by this lesson, she understands that the most recent cause of her inability to sleep, a moth banging against her window, is not intent on haunting her sleep, but merely doing its job.

Didn't settle down any better than Frances this week while my dad was back in the hospital in Nebraska. I needed a moth outside my window just doing its job by lulling me to sleep.

Instead, I opened Joseph Scheer's book, Night Visions, to look at images of moths scanned at 40,000 pixels per inch. While the book inspired wonder and creative urges, it didn't lull me to sleep. I ripped out a just begun owl stitchery, so a stitched moth could bump against a burlap screen door.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Cicada killer wasps

When one of the paper wasps managed to get into my condo I ceased being a curious amateur hymenoptera observer. A wasp MUST be on the other side of the glass! I had work to do out on my patio, so I shot the wasp nest with the water hose until it fell down, then tossed it out in the alley behind my fence. Next a cicada killer wasp went riccocheting around the patio. It was bigger than a hummingbird, but steered like a drunk teenager in an SUV with "Pinball Wizard" at full blast on his iPod. So much for playing Nature Girl! I dove back in the condo. Reminds me of when my beautician, the Scary Hair Lady, hasn't oiled the blade on her neck trimmer for awhile...or one of those bad mornings when I drop a fork into the garbage disposal!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Let's not guess my lunch!

Do you like see food? That's the age-old school cafeteria joke about chewing with your mouth open. See food is not appealing. It ranks in the gross kid behavior Top Ten list between chewing the neck of one's t-shirt, and running both hands up one's shorts' legs to take attendance.

At some point in the parenting process you have to confront these behaviors, and it should be well before your child goes to college. By the time your child is four, you must be getting pretty tired of being grossed out. The whole bodily fluids adventure is getting really old. Even grandmas are tired of hearing about soft and firm stools. That's why you potty-trained your daughter, of course. That's why you're teaching your son to wipe by himself, to flush, and then wash hands with soap.

Kids age four are easily taught to cover their mouth when they cough. Some can learn that sucking the neck of their shirts makes ugly laundry stains. See food's your parental cue to start some serious manners instruction.

Socialize, in my old American Heritage Dictionary, means 2. To fit for companionship with others; make sociable in attitude or manners:

Learning the customs, attitudes, and values of a social group, community, or culture. Socialization is essential for the development of individuals who can participate and function within their societies, as well as for ensuring that a society's cultural features will be carried on through new generations.

Somewhere in the Sixties socialization got a bad rap, along with discrimination. Discriminating is differentiating, drawing fine distinctions, or being perceptive. One cannot do any meaningful work without the ability to discriminate. The word just got tangled up with prejudice and preferential treatment. Socialization became a bugaboo associated with forced acceptance of gender role cultural norms. One cannot be a part of any group without socialization.

The essential functions of parenting are to raise children to be self-sufficient, self-motivated, and able to participate as citizens of the world. Parents must raise children to challenge gender role norms in society, but without devaluing the process of parenting itself. Being a parent is more important than any other work. Our cultures are merging to become a worldwide society. Our children need to be able to participate as fully-functioning members of that worldwide community. They certainly need responsible parents to achieve that ability.

Unless parents expect a child to live a solitary life in an isolated cave surviving on lunches of grasshoppers, it's a good idea to suggest chewing with one's mouth closed. [Because of their long legs, it is difficult to chew crunchy grasshoppers with your mouth closed.] Age four is the time to start. Model the behavior you want to see. Let kids know they are becoming more delightful dinner companions, and they will rise to the challenge. It's okay if they still put pitted black olives on their fingertips, though. I'd be very worried if they didn't!

As for the shorts, I told my sons to do that in their own rooms, then wash their hands! They turned out pretty well, and probably won't need years of therapy.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Where is his mommy?

The bright green anole walked down the black cast iron birdfeeder hook this hideously hot and humid afternoon. Less than two and a half inches long from its nose to the end of its pencil line tail, and maybe a quarter inch from right foot toe to left foot toe--much too little to be unsupervised on the patio playground. Where is his mommy? Is she drinking iced tea over on a shady bench with the other mothers and chatting about potty training? He's going to burn his toes, his tail, his tummy on that broiling metal slippery slide!

Everything is shimmering in the heat, and the sweat is dripping in my eyes. The little lizard is Jeffy, almost three, insisting that he try the McDonald's playground slippery slide in Tyler, Texas on a day just like this--1985. Burning the back of his legs although the metal slide was less than four feet tall. The horrible parenting moment still blistering my conscience this month as little Jeffy turns twenty-five.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


The Good, the Bad, and the Wasps

Wasps have built a nest just outside the window by my computer. They must have done the work in the past few days while I was preoccupied by my dad's infection and hospital adventures.

Wasps are beneficial insects in the gardener's battle against pest caterpillars, but they give me the Lee Van Cleef shivers. Or, possibly, Lee Van Cleef gives me the wasp shivers. I wouldn't want to find either of them sitting at my kitchen table.

This is the best view I've had of wasp behavior in thirty years. As newlyweds our first apartment featured wasp nests outside the big old windows, and all too often wasps inside the apartment. When a wasp was killed as an indoor intruder, the other wasps seemed to have a ritual resembling a funeral outside the window. It was downright creepy. I was sure the wasps were plotting revenge.

Just a year or so ago I finally watched "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" for the first time. The instant Lee Van Cleef appeared as Angel Eyes, I had a creepy plotting revenge wasp revulsion shiver down my spine. I get the same insectile shiver and cold sweat whenever I see Darth Cheney on television!

Paper wasps are the papier mache artists of the insect world, creating their nests from chewed wood and plant materials. From my vantage point, I can watch them working at the hexagonal cells of their nest. When I took this photo they became still for about fifteen minutes. I was feeling guilty for killing them by flash camera, when they got back to business. What that business is, I'm not sure.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Act your age!

This blog is over four years old now. While it may not always remember to chew with its mouth closed, it ought to remember to flush and wash hands.

Sometimes writing a blog is like having a special bunny and a security blanket. The habit of writing has helped me as my sons graduated from high school, and then from an assortment of universities. It's seen me through the end of my soccer mom identity and into my 93.3333% empty nest.

I've written through the illness and death of my mother, and about the process of grieving. I've tried to distill the daily phone calls with my dad into homemade savory beef vegetable soups with barley.

Blogging has anchored me through the end of a job and the embracing of a new challenge. It's been good for reconnecting with phases in my life that I'd put on the shelf or brushed under the rug.

Blogging has nurtured me and demanded that I take care of myself when other responsibilities or the nurturing of others began to overwhelm me. It has been an essentially no-money-out-of-pocket therapy. Compared to Aetna, Blogger is a real preventive health care bargain!

Sometimes blogging nudges my creativity. Other times it feels great to freely share creative art and teaching ideas with a worldwide anonymous audience. It always helps me sort out my reactions and thoughts to experiences. I've heard there are people who know what they think and feel about events instantly. I'm not in that club. My ex used to ask me if I only experienced life as "pretty colors floating around." Not exactly. I just need time to run the sands through an hourglass of writing or making art to articulate my reaction to an experience.

Don't know when I became convinced that I couldn't verbalize my thoughts to my peers. If the thoughts were piggy-backed with loaded emotions, I was almost paralyzed. It became safer to write, so I had time to self-edit my ideas.

Four year-olds are responsible for their own bodies, their own actions, and the consequences of those actions. They are increasingly aware that they belong to family, a preschool class, and a community, and that they have a responsibility to contribute to those groups in a positive way. Four year-olds recognize and understand routines and sequences. Four year-olds still believe that if they ignore a mess or mistake it will be invisible to others. They love to demand others follow rules, but (like attorneys) don't always believe rules apply to them.

I hope that I have taken responsibility for the consequences of my writing, contributed to my community in a positive way, and cleaned up my own messes. Blogging tells me immediately if i have literary toilet paper stuck to my shoe!

Four year-olds crave attention, but are learning to express that need in ways that do not have a negative impact on others. I still crave comments to my posts, but write for my own enjoyment and improvement.

Four year-olds begin to understand that learning, effort, and becoming acceptable to a community have intrinsic rewards. Thank you and thank you! And all the little people who made it possible!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


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